Butler's career night carries Mountaineers past No. 13 Wildcats

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Da'Sean Butler bounced back from one of his worst performances and helped West Virginia to its biggest win of the season.

Butler scored a career-high 43 points to lead the Mountaineers to a 93-72 victory over No. 13 Villanova on Friday night. Earlier in the week, Butler had just four points on 2-for-12 shooting in a loss at fourth-ranked Pittsburgh.

"I'm just happy we won, honestly," Butler said. "Granted the points are great and everything and I'm happy I got that, but I'm just glad that we have a chance to start a streak now. We've got Notre Dame coming in on Wednesday."

Against the Wildcats, Butler shot 12-for-23 from the field, including six 3-pointers, and 13-for-15 on free throws.

"I have been waiting for [a big game from Butler], honestly," West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said. "He does it in practice. He does a great job of reading screens and our guys are getting better at getting him the ball."

Butler scored 24 in the first half as the Mountaineers (17-8, 6-6 Big East) built a 20-point lead en route to their season-high scoring output. Devin Ebanks added 16 for West Virginia, which led 52-34 at halftime.

Corey Fisher had 17 points to lead Villanova (20-5, 8-4), which had its six-game winning streak snapped. Corey Stokes and Scottie Reynolds added 12 each.

Stokes hit a 3-pointer with 3:53 to play to pull the Wildcats within 13. The Mountaineers responded with a 7-0 run, capped by Butler's sixth 3 to extend the lead to 20 points and seal the win. The basket also made Butler the first West Virginia player to score 40 points in a game since Lowes Moore in a win over Notre Dame in 1978.

"I looked up [at the scoreboard] once right before that and just thought 'Wow'," Butler said with a grin. "My teammates got me the ball and I knew I was going to shoot a 3. I knew I was going to shoot it. I might not have made it, but I was shooting it. I'm glad I made it, though. That was pretty awesome."

The big night almost didn't happen for Butler, who injured his ankle during a rebounding drill in practice on Thursday. Butler and the Mountaineers' training staff worked tirelessly Thursday night and throughout Friday to at least give the team's leading scorer a chance to suit up against the Wildcats.

"I came very close to not playing," he said. "It was pretty bad when [the injury] happened and this morning. I really couldn't walk and I had to have someone help me get out of bed so I could come to the Coliseum."

Once he arrived in WVU's 38-year old campus facility, though, the injury obviously wasn't bothersome.

"[WVU trainer Randy Meador] did a terrific job, and Da'Sean really wanted to play," Huggins said.

The Mountaineers, who beat a team in the top half of the conference standings for the first time this season, topped their previous high of 92 points in wins over Elon and Seton Hall. West Virginia also ended Villanova's streak of three consecutive games with at least 90 points.

"We got in foul trouble early and then defensively we just didn't have an answer for Da'Sean Butler," Villanova coach Jay Wright said. "He was great and when we got down and we were trying to come back, we left him open a lot. ... He was just a great player tonight."

Former WVU star Joe Alexander, who led the Mountaineers to the regional semifinals of the NCAA tournament last year, was seated behind the Mountaineer bench. Alexander was drafted eighth overall by the Milwaukee Bucks in last June's NBA draft.