It was a busy day in the BIG EAST on Saturday, with 11 conference teams in action. West Virginia, Syracuse, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh and Rutgers all grabbed wins in BIG EAST play, while Connecticut notched an impressive nonconference road win over No. 12/12 Texas.
West Virginia (10-4, 2-2 BIG EAST) moved to .500 in BIG EAST play with a 65-59 road win over No. 13/13 Georgetown (12-4, 1-3 BIG EAST). Guard Casey Mitchell scored 28 points and the Mountaineers forced 18 turnovers to take the win. Mitchell, who averaged just 3.7 points per game last year, is averaging a team-best 17.6 points this season, He hit 10-of-19 from the field including 4-of-7 from 3-point range. Kevin Jones added 15 points in a rematch of last year’s BIG EAST Championship title game.
Jason Clark scored 16 points to lead the Hoyas. Senior Austin Freeman and Chris Wright combined for 20 points, going 6-of-21 from the field. The Hoyas committed turnovers on three straight possessions with less than two minutes to play to seal the game for WVU.
No. 4/4 Syracuse (16-0, 3-0 BIG EAST) remained unbeaten after a 61-56 win over Seton Hall (7-9, 1-3 BIG EAST). Kris Joseph scored 17 points while Brandon Triche had all 15 points in the second half to lead the Orange, who are 16-0 for the first time since 1999-2000. Jeff Robinson and Herb Pope each had double-doubles for the Pirates. Robinson poured in 17 points and grabbed 14 rebounds, while Pope had 14 points and 20 boards. Both teams struggled shooting in the first half, as Syracuse shot just 30.4 percent and Seton Hall shot 22.9 percent. The Pirates were 0-of-17 from 3-point range in the first half.
Seton Hall pulled within two points in the second half, going on a 13-1 to pull within 55-53 with 2:20 to play. Scoop Jardine scored on a layup with under two minutes to play to put the lead at four, and SU used its defense to hold off Seton Hall the rest of the way. SHU held a 44-32 rebounding advantage in the game, but SU shot 60 percent from the field in the second half to remain perfect.
No. 5/5 Pittsburgh (15-1, 3-0 BIG EAST) tripped up Marquette (11-5, 2-1 BIG EAST) 89-81. Guard Ashton Gibbs had 19 points to lead a first-half surge where the Panthers opened-up a 16-point lead. Guard Brad Wanamaker scored 15 points and forward Gilbert Brown added 14 points and seven rebounds. For the Golden Eagles, guard Darius Johnson-Odom scored a game-high 20 points while Dwight Buycks contributed 19. The score was tied at 26 midway through the first half, but the Panthers took control of the game with a 22-6 run that lasted more than six minutes. Pitt has defeated MU in four-straight games in BIG EAST play.
No. 15/15 Notre Dame (14-2, 3-1 BIG EAST) remained perfect on its home floor with a 76-61 win over St. John’s (10-4, 3-1 BIG EAST). It was the first conference loss of the season for the Red Storm, who were led by Justin Brownlee’s 17 points and seven rebounds. The Irish got a career-high 26 points from Ben Hansbrough, who connected on four shots from 3-point range to put an end to St. John’s five-game winning streak. Tim Abromaitis and Scott Martin added 12 each for ND, and Abromaitis added nine rebounds. The Irish defense held the Red Storm to just 38 percent shooting from the field. Notre Dame went on a 15-5 run to end the first half, giving the home squad a 44-25 lead at the break and St. John’s never got within single digits after that.
Rutgers (10-5, 1-2 BIG EAST) recorded its first BIG EAST win under first-year head coach Mike Rice with an 85-72 victory over Providence (11-6, 0-4 BIG EAST). The Scarlet Knights were led by a double-double from Jonathan Mitchell, who tallied 21 points and 10 rebounds. The win was the most lopsided victory for Rutgers in BIG EAST play since beating DePaul by 19 points two years ago. Rutgers had a strong second half, outscoring the Friars 52-37 over the last 20 minutes including a 19-10 run over the first eight minutes. Austin Johnson scored a season-high 16 points off the bench for RU, while Gilvydas Biruta and Dane Miller had 13 and 12 points respectively. The Friars were once again led by Marshon Brooks and had a game-high 29 points, notching his 11th-straight 20-plus point performance.
No. 8/9 Connecticut (12-2, 1-2 BIG EAST) played the most thrilling game of the day, picking-up an 82-81 overtime road win against No. 12/12 Texas. Guard Kemba Walker, the nation’s leading scorer, was held in-check for most of the game, finishing regulation with 15 points. But Walker was clutch for the Huskies in overtime. The junior scored seven of the Huskies’ nine points in the extra session, including draining a pull-up jumper from the foul line with five seconds left to give Connecticut an impressive nonconference road win. Walker got a lot of help in the game, with three other Huskies scoring in double figures including guard Shabazz Napier (15 points), forward Roscoe Smith (13 points) and center Alex Oriakhi (11 points). Oriakhi owned the glass, pulling down a career-best 21 rebounds as UConn outrebounded the Longhorns 52-42 in the contest.
Two games are scheduled for noon tip-offs on Sunday, including a battle of top-25 teams when No. 24/25 Cincinnati heads to No. 7/7 Villanova. No. rv/23 Louisville is also on the road at USF. Both games are available on ESPN3.com.