It can be considered one of the greatest basketball games in WVU history. Coming off a win over Washington in the Sweet 16, the Mountaineers found themselves matched up with the heavyweight in their region, the number one seed Kentucky Wildcats. The Wildcats were in their first season with John Calipari as head coach, and with stars like John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Eric Bledsoe, and West Virginia native Patrick Patterson on the roster, the Mountaineers were in for a tough night.
The Mountaineers also had an injury issue to deal with. Darryl "Truck" Bryant was nursing a broken foot. This forced experienced guard Joe Mazzulla into the lineup, and Joe made the most of his opportunity, scoring 17 points.
The stalwart of this Moutaineer team, the defense, held strong throughout the contest, especially beyond the three point line. Kentucky started the game 0-20 from three-point, before finishing 4-32, a lowly 12.5 shooting percentage. In contrast, the Mountaineers began the night sinking eight 3-pointers in the first half, lead by leading scorer Da'Sean Butler's four. Butler finished the game with 18 points to lead the Mountaineers.
It was Bob Huggins first signature tournament win after returning to coach his alma mater, and it put WVU on the map as a power in the Big East to be reckoned with. After the game, Huggins attributed the win to the motivation behind bringing a championship back to Morgantown and the great citizens of West Virginia.
"The first day I was here, I told them I came back to win a national championship. I came back to win it for the university, having played there, and for the great people of our state."
I was at this game, and it was the best basketball game I have ever been to live. At one moment during the game, while WVU had momentum and was on a scoring run, Devin Ebanks picked up a steal and walked in all alone to throw down a windmill dunk that would have lifted the roof off the Carrier Dome. He botched it off his knee and it went out of bounds. But the cheers and support of the WVU faithful in the stands rallying around that team is what I will remember most about that atmosphere. It was truly a great day to be a Mountaineer, wherever you were at.
As the Kentucky fan section was walking out, John Flowers jumped onto the media table and began doing the John Wall dance to celebrate. It was fun, light-hearted, and the Mountaineer team got a laugh out of it.
Here is to hoping a fun, successful basketball team similar to this one comes through WVU real soon, because this team provided memories to last a lifetime.