Mid-March is annually the Holy days of college basketball. But in 2020, the gyms are silent and the NCAA Tournament will not be played for the first time since its inception in 1939. We will never know what would have been for the 2020 West Virginia Mountaineers in their quest for One Shining Moment. In it’s place, let’s use the Wayback Machine to look back at the best tournament games for the Mountaineers. We are selecting the best WVU game for each round of the tournament – Round of 64, Round of 32, Sweet 16, Elite 8, Final Four and National Championship Game. Each day will feature a new top WVU NCAA Tournament game, culminating with the finals.
Part 4 of 6: Elite Eight
2010 East Regional; Syracuse, N.Y.
(2) West Virginia 73, (1) Kentucky 66
This was an amazing victory for the WVU basketball program. It looks even more amazing with a decade in the rear-view mirror.
The biggest aspect of this victory was, of course, that it sent the Mountaineers to the Final Four for only the second time in their history. But the magnitude of who they beat to earn that berth has grown more impressive as time passes.
West Virginia beat Kentucky. Kentucky, the No. 1 seed in the region (WVU was a second seed). Kentucky, the bluest of the blue bloods in college basketball. A Kentucky team that had eight future NBA players. A Kentucky team that set a record with five players drafted in the first round of that year’s draft (John Wall, first; DeMarcus Cousins, fifth; Patrick Patterson, 14th; Eric Bledsoe, 18th; Daniel Orton, 29th).
In terms of NBA talent on hand, the 2010 Kentucky team was the most talented team WVU ever beat in the NCAA Tournament.
The only player on that WVU team to play in the NBA was Devin Ebanks. Ebanks played parts of three seasons for the Lakers at the beginning of the decade. Wall, Cousins, Patterson and Bledsoe are still playing 10 years later.
West Virginia starting point guard Truck Bryant was injured and not playing. His replacement, Joe Mazzulla, chose the perfect time to play the best game of his career. Mazzulla scored 17 points and was a defensive thorn in Wall’s side all night of the Mountaineers upset win.
It wasn’t only Mazzulla who turned in an out-of-character offensive showcase. The 2009-10 Mountaineers, like most of coach Bob Huggins teams, were known for their defensive toughness and rebounding. They weren’t good outside shooters.
But on this night, they were.
WVU hit eight 3 pointers in the first half – and no 2 pointers. Kentucky, on the other hand, was awful shooting against the Mountaineers defense. The Wildcats missed their first 20 3-point shots, finishing 4 for 32 (12.5 percent) from behind the arc.
DaSean Butler, the Mountaineers top scorer, led them with 18 points. He was just 4 of 15 from the field but hit 6-of-7 from the free-throw line.
Upsetting this stacked Kentucky team is arguably the best coaching job of Huggins illustrious career.
It’s also the most impressive tournament victory in WVU basketball history.
Runner-up: 1959 WVU 86, Boston University 82