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Sunday, April 4, 2010
Loss, injury stings West Virginia's Butler

By Mark Schlabach

Da'Sean Butler
Da'Sean Butler, center, needed help leaving the floor after his knee injury Saturday.

INDIANAPOLIS -- West Virginia guard Da'Sean Butler sat in a chair in the Mountaineers' locker room at Lucas Oil Stadium on Saturday night, his left knee wrapped in ice and crutches sitting nearby.

With about nine minutes remaining in the Mountaineers' 78-57 loss to Duke in the national semifinals of the NCAA tournament, Butler felt his left knee buckle as he drove to the basket. Immediately, he clutched his leg and fell to the floor.

Butler's worst fears instantly ran through his mind.

"I hope this isn't what I think it is," Butler told himself.

"But it hurt," he said.

After Butler lay on the court in obvious pain for a few minutes, West Virginia coach Bob Huggins walked onto the floor. After chirping at officials, Huggins leaned over his player until they were nearly nose-to-nose. Huggins appeared to wipe a tear from Butler's cheek.

"I was just apologizing because I wanted to win it for him, too," Butler said.

"Don't be sorry," Huggins told him. "I love ya."

The scene was one of the more emotional moments in recent NCAA tournament history. A star player crumbling to the floor and his volatile coach helping pick him up.

"I'm not surprised," Butler said. "That's my coach. He's like a father to me. It's something we expect him to do. Maybe everyone else didn't, but we're all a family and we love each other."

Butler said he was more scared than anything else. After watching Purdue star Robbie Hummel suffer a season-ending knee injury late in the season, Butler feared he'd suffered the same fate. And with a potential NBA career looming, Butler didn't want his college career to end with a serious injury.

"I was just terrified," Butler said. "I've seen a couple of my good friends hurt their knees. I didn't want it to happen to me."

Huggins said Butler's biggest concern at the time was that he had let his teammates down.

"I knew it was bad because [Butler] is really a tough guy," Huggins said. "I've said this repeatedly and I mean this: He's a really, really good player, but he's a better person. When I went out, it was more about he felt like he let his teammates down than his injury. That's how he is. He's got a great heart."

Butler, who last week was named second-team All-American by the Associated Press, scored 10 points on 2-for-8 shooting. The Mountaineers trailed 63-48 when he was hurt.

Butler made two foul shots to cut Duke's lead to 46-40 with 15:44 to go, but the Blue Devils went on a 12-4 run over the next four minutes to blow the game open.

"I'd do anything for the last 14 minutes," Butler said, as his blood-shot eyes began to tear up again. "I wish I could change it. That's it. That's all I've got."