Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
How about that bounce-back game by Alex Ruoff?
After not scoring at all in the season finale against Louisville on ESPN, the senior guard poured in 25 points to lead No. 7 West Virginia to a 74-62 victory over No. 10 Notre Dame at Madison Square Garden.
The Mountaineers will face No. 2 Pitt in Wednesday’s quarterfinals. Pitt beat West Virginia twice this year.
“The advice I got from my coaches was just put it behind me,” Ruoff, who was also named the Big East Scholar-Athlete of the Year, said of the Louisville game. “Of course it hurts, but I wasn’t trying to think too much about it, just come here tonight.”
Ruoff was 4-of-7 from behind the arc and went 3-of-6 from the stripe in the final seconds.
It was also a big night for the local boys.
Former Bloomfield (N.J.) Tech standout Da’Sean Butler scored 20 points, Long Island City native Devin Ebanks added seven points and 18 rebounds and former St. Raymond’s of the Bronx standout Darryl “Truck” Bryant had 17 points.
“These two guys [Ruoff and Butler] have just been terrific for us all year,” Mounties coach Bob Huggins said. “You try to make adjustments and it’s hard to to do when they’re not on the floor.”
Luke Harangody scored 23 of his game-high 27 in the second half, when the Irish made a run. Kyle McAlarney added 17 points and Ryan Ayers 11.
West Virginia outrebounded Notre Dame 52-32 and 20-7 on the offensive glass.
“Their length bothers you on the backboard and it bothers you in the passing lanes,” Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said.
Bryant scored 13 points in the first half, hitting three of his four 3-pointers, when West Virginia built a 20-point lead before taking a 36-18 halftime lead.
“Bryant made us pay,” Brey said. “I give him credit, he made shots to start them.”
Notre Dame cut it to 66-59 late in the second half before Ruoff made a three-point play to push it to 69-59.
“Every time we got it to single-digits and you want to get over the hump, usually an offensive rebound cost you,” Brey said.
It looks like the Irish will be headed to the NIT.
“I think it’s disappointing that we won’t play in the NCAA Tournament,” Brey said. “We’re kind of at where we’re at. I really thought we’re a 9-9 team coming into the season…We got to 8-10 and we could never really get the next quality win. We’ll be honored to play in postseason.”
Next up for West Virginia is Pitt and Co-Big East Player of the Year DeJuan Blair.
“We just gotta man up,” Ruoff said. “Theyr’e a physical team…We just gotta match their physical play, limit the mental mistakes and match their physical play.”
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.