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West Virginia shoots down Arizona

Mar 21, 2008 - 6:11 AM WASHINGTON (Ticker) -- West Virginia and Arizona entered the NCAA Tournament as teams heading in opposite directions and they maintained their respective courses on Thursday.

Alex Ruoff scored 21 points and Da'Sean Butler added 19 to lead seventh-seeded West Virginia to a 75-65 victory over 10th-seeded Arizona in the first round in the West Regional.

The Mountaineers (25-10) solidified their spot in the NCAAs with a four-game winning streak, including a quarterfinal victory in the Big East tournament against Connecticut before losing to Georgetown.

West Virginia advances to face No. 2 Duke in the second round on Saturday. The Blue Devils survived No. 15 Belmont, 71-70, earlier Thursday night.

"They're a very prestigious team. They're very good. They've won a lot of games, but everybody in our locker room is excited to play them," Butler said. "It will be a very good game for us so we can move on into the tournament. We came to win six games and this is our second game, so we're just ready to play."

The Mountaineers are moving on mainly because they had a number of players hit big shots. Ruoff was 5-of-8 from the arc and Darris Nichols was 4-of-5 while Butler went 9-of-14 from the field.

"Alex made shots today. And Darris (Nichols) made big shots for us today. And Da'Sean (Butler) really played well early," West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said. "We made some dumb mistakes that kind of let them back in the game earlier.

"When we stay in the context of what we do, we're pretty good. When we get out of that context, we're not near as good."

The Wildcats (19-15), who lost eight of their last 12 games to end the season, clawed back to within 60-59 on a 3-pointer by Jerryd Bayless with 4:45 to play.

Nichols answered with a 3-pointer and Ruoff added one to make it 66-59. Nichols then hit another from the arm to put West Virginia up, 69-61, with 2:34 to go.

""That's a thing we haven't been doing all year is hitting big shots when we needed them - open shots - and today we were able to hit them when we needed them," Nichols said.

Chase Budinger scored 23 points and Jordan Hill has 16 and 10 rebounds for Arizona.

"It was heartbreaking," Budinger said. "They came up big with huge shots down the stretch with the shot clock winding down. Their guys just stepped up and knocked them down.

""Every team that shot the 3-ball against us beat us and that's what happened tonight. All of the big shots down the stretch, every one of those were daggers. It just really killed us."