WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The clock ticked down ... three ... two ... one ... when West Virginia guard Alex Ruoff did what he was supposed to do, and I don't mean shoot. He launched a desperation 3-point jumper that, when it dropped, did more than just beat the clock.
It took down Duke with it.
|Most of Duke's second-half shots end up like this effort from Kyle Singler. (US Presswire)|
The box score tells you Duke had one more trey than its opponent, but don't be misled, people. The Mountaineers were 0-for-6 in a first half when they trailed by five; they were 4-for-5 in the second half, with all four coming in an 18-3 run that finished the Blue Devils.
One of those, of course, was Ruoff's off-balance bomb -- a shot that tied the score at 37 and launched West Virginia into next weekend.
"It was an answer to a prayer," he said. "That's all it was. I'm very thankful it went in."
Not as thankful as his teammates and coach Bob Huggins, who graduates to the Sweet 16 for only the second time in his last 10 NCAA tournaments. Ruoff's shot was followed by a Joe Alexander three-point play ... then an Alexander 3-point jumper ... then two more baskets ... and say good night, folks.
The Mountaineers would never again be challenged.
"That shot," Alexander said of Ruoff's bucket, "was part of a run that helped give us a lot of momentum and a lot of confidence."
Now let's look at Duke: After Greg Paulus nailed his first two 3-pointers, the club missed its next 15. You heard me: 15. In fact, the Blue Devils didn't nail one until Gerald Henderson converted with 1:55 left, and by then it was too late.
Credit West Virginia's defense. Blame Duke for hurried and inaccurate shooting. It doesn't matter. Both add up to the same thing: Horrible second-half shooting by the Blue Devils which, Huggins suggested, his team forced.
"In four of their five losses," he said, "they were held to under eight threes, and we thought that was key. We thought it was the key how many threes they got off. You have to pick your poison, and we really wanted to do a better job not letting them score from behind the three."