Butler sparks win for Mountaineers

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Washington's Elston Turner (center) battles for control of the ball with West Virginia's Cam Thoroughman (left) and Kevin Jones. Turner scored four points in the regional semifinal loss.

Clutching his right hand and writhing in pain on the court, West Virginia senior Da'Sean Butler allowed himself only two seconds to worry that his college career was over - and maybe the Mountaineers' NCAA tournament run, too.

When Butler realized the hurt was subsiding, he got up and went about his business in lifting the second-seeded Mountaineers to the East Regional final with a 69-56 win over 11th-seeded Washington last night at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, N.Y.

"Once I stood up, the one thing that was pretty numb was my hand, and I said, 'All right, I'll be fine,' " he said.

He was, and so were the Mountaineers (30-6). Coach Bob Huggins' team set a school record for victories, extended its winning streak to nine and advanced to the round of eight for the second time since 2005.

Seeing Butler on the court, however, was a major scare for West Virginia, which was playing its first game without point guard Darryl Bryant, who broke his right foot in practice on Tuesday.

Butler plays an even more critical role on the Mountaineers, as he is their leading scorer who has also hit six game-winning shots in the final seconds this season.

"That was a very big sense of relief," forward Kevin Jones said. "Something would really have to be wrong if he didn't get up. Luckily, it wasn't that. He got up and showed how tough he was."

Butler had his right hand wrapped in ice in the Mountaineers' locker room and said he'll be ready to play Saturday.

Jones led the Big East tournament champions with 18 points and eight rebounds, while Butler finished with 14 points and seven rebounds.

Justin Holiday scored 14 and added eight rebounds for the Huskies (26-10), who were at a disadvantage after leading scorer Quincy Pondexter picked up his third foul with 4 minutes, 27 seconds left in the first half. Pondexter didn't score his first basket until 2:30 into the second half, and finished with seven points.

Point guard Isaiah Thomas scored 13 before fouling out with 2:41 left. The Huskies had a nine-game win streak snapped. The Pac-10 tournament champions were trying to become only the fourth school seeded 11th or lower to reach the round of eight.

"It definitely hurts. We made a great run down the last stretch of the season," Pondexter said. "It hurts right now. There's nothing much to say about it."

Butler getting up after being hurt proved to be the big turning point in what started as a tightly contested game that featured six lead changes.

With the Mountaineers up 52-43, Butler made a key defensive play by stripping the ball from Thomas. At the other end, West Virginia worked the ball to Butler at the top of the key, where he drew a foul as he attempted to spin around Holiday. The whistle was late, which incensed Huskies coach Lorenzo Romar, who ripped off his sport coat in anger as he marched up the sideline toward the officials, who gave the coach a technical foul.

Devin Ebanks and Butler combined to hit all four free throws to provide the Mountaineers their largest lead, 56-43.

Romar said his reaction for the most part was an attempt to spark his team which had opened the half missing 11 of its first 14 field goals - including an ugly possession in which the Huskies missed five shots from in close.

"All of a sudden, we kind of lost the sense of urgency, I thought," Romar said. "I felt we had to nip that in the bud right away."

It didn't work as the Huskies proved no match for the Mountaineers' aggressive approach. Washington finished 22 of 56 from the field and was outrebounded, 49-29.

"It felt like it was eight against five out there," Huskies forward Darnell Gant said.

Kentucky 62, Cornell 45 - John Wall and top-seeded Kentucky overcame an early deficit with a swarming defense, stopping Cornell's captivating tournament run in the other East semifinal.

With much of the Carrier Dome crowd - and the country - pulling for an upset by the 12th-seeded Ivy Leaguers, Cornell bolted to a 10-2 lead in the opening minutes.

But quickly, Wall, and the Wildcats (35-2) displayed all the NBA-caliber talent that makes them a traditional powerhouse. Kentucky led by 32-16 at halftime and made it 38-21 before Cornell (29-5) climbed back into it.

Ahead by 40-34 with 51/2 minutes left, coach John Calipari's team kept its composure and advanced to play No. 2 seed West Virginia tomorrow for a spot in the Final Four.

DeMarcus Cousins led the Wildcats with 16 points. Louis Dale scored 17 to lead Cornell.