NEW YORK -- Da'Sean Butler didn't have to be a last-minute hero this time, but the senior still rescued his team.
Butler scored 24 points, each one as critical as the 3-point buzzer he banked to beat Cincinnati, 53-51, on Thursday night, as the Mountaineers staved off a furious rally from the Irish.
West Virginia will have a chance to win its first conference tournament crown of any kind since 1984 when it faces Georgetown on Saturday night. WVU has never played for the Big East title.
In a game where points were at a premium, Butler was the one person in a West Virginia uniform who couldn't be contained. Kevin Jones was the only other Mountaineer in double figures. He had 10.
West Virginia did exactly what it needed to do to beat the Irish. Recognizing opportunities would be fleeting, the Mountaineers took only good shots in the halfcourt. They never got frustrated or rushed, shooting 48 percent from the floor. And they absolutely dominated Notre Dame on the boards, 34-19, allowing the Irish only four offensive rebounds for the game.
Despite the loss, the Irish leave New York with a newfound offense and newfound identity. Mike Brey's willingness to scrap his fast-paced style led the Irish out of the doldrums and into the NCAA Tournament. They'll go with a healthy Luke Harangody, who struggled to get 1o points against the Mountaineers, and a confidence that slowing the game down works.