(March 28, 2010) – While Kentucky couldn’t seem to make a basket, West Virginia couldn’t seem to miss. And with a trip to the “Final Four” on the line, WVU picked the perfect time to get hot from beyond the arc as their eight first half three-pointers blazed the way to a 73-66 upset over No. 1 Kentucky in the NCAA East Regional Finals at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, N.Y. on Saturday, March 27.

Backup point guard Joe Mazzulla scored a career-high 17 points and was one of four West Virginia players to shoot 50 percent from the arc. Kentucky could have only wished to be anywhere near as accurate, as they shot an atrocious 12 percent from three-point range, connecting on four of 32 shots. When Kentucky tried to drive the lane, they were quickly fouled and fared no better on the free throw line, shooting 55 percent and converting 16-of-29 attempts.

West Virginia’s rotating zone defense suckered Kentucky into launching three-point shots all night, a key part of WVU’s game plan. As Kentucky missed shot after shot, West Virginia’s transition offense took over and Mazzulla scored on a number of uncontested layups in the second half.

The win booked the first trip to the Final Four for West Virginia (31-6) since 1959 and Kentucky (35-3 l) tied with North Carolina for the most losses (nine) as a No. 1 seed since 1979. The loss may also spell the end of the college careers of sensational freshmen John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins and possibly Eric Bledsoe, as all three could elect to depart for the NBA draft this summer.

West Virginia, on the other hand, could be destined for a happier ending. Should Duke, the last remaining No. 1 seed in the tournament, lose against Baylor on Sunday, March 28, WVU would be the highest remaining seed left and possibly the favorites to cut down the championship nets in Indianapolis as national champions.


Stephen D. Riley

Special to the AFRO