West Virginia beats No. 15 Connecticut
NEW YORK - Joe Alexander continued his scoring streak with a career-high 34 points and West Virginia beat No. 15 Connecticut 78-72 on Thursday in the quarterfinals of the Big East tournament.
The fifth-seeded Mountaineers (25-7) will play top-seeded and ninth-ranked Georgetown in the semifinals Friday night. It will be West Virginia's second appearance in the tournament's final four as it lost in the 2005 championship game.
The coach of that team was John Beilein. Bob Huggins has gotten the Mountaineers that far in his first season at his alma mater.
Alexander is averaging 29.8 points over his last five games, a streak that started with a then-career high 32 points in a 79-71 loss to Connecticut on March 1. The 6-foot-8 junior forward had 22 points in the Mountaineers' opening-round win over Providence.
A.J. Price had 22 points for the Huskies (24-8), who have lost their last four games in the Big East tournament, a streak that started with in the semifinals in 2005.
Alexander was 12-for-22 from the field and 10-for-12 from the free throw line as West Virginia led throughout the entire second half. The Mountaineers' biggest lead was 13 points, the last time at 61-48 with 9:18 left, and they held off a run that had the Huskies as close as 70-65 on a driving layup by Price with 2:02 to play.
West Virginia had come up with four offensive rebounds in the three possessions before and the one after that basket to take the wind out of the Huskies' comeback.
Da'Sean Butler made two free throws with 1:27 left to give West Virginia a 72-65 lead and Darris Nichols made one of two 11 seconds later to make it a six-point game. Alexander's breakaway dunk with 1:01 left got the lead back to 10 points. He added another dunk with 14 seconds left that gave him his career high and sent the West Virginia fans at Madison Square Garden into a big celebration.
Butler had 17 points and nine rebounds to lead West Virginia's impressive showing on the boards. The Mountaineers finished with a 42-26 advantage, including 14-5 on the offensive end.