Dominique Rutledge Strong Off Bench in WVU Loss - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

Dominique Rutledge Strong Off Bench in WVU Loss

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LAS VEGAS -

West Virginia was looking for a hero Friday night and almost found one in the unlikeliest of places.

With just under nine minutes remaining in regulation and facing a five-point deficit, Bob Huggins took out Kevin Noreen and put Dominique Rutledge in his place. The moved paid off to a greater extent than he could have anticipated.

Coming into the game against Baylor, Rutledge had seen just 14 minutes of action, and many of them were well below the standards needed to become any consistent part of the Mountaineers' rotation.

This time was different.

He had eight points and four rebounds in 10 minutes of action and helped spark the Mountaineers to a second half lead before ultimately losing in overtime.

"It's just work ethic," Rutledge says of his performance. "Just trying to make the best out of every play. Talking on defense and K.J. and Truck were helping me out a lot."

Rutledge, a junior college transfer, has been waiting for this chance to make a difference for West Virginia. Huggins said after the game that he can't rely on Rutledge because he doesn't know all the sets or the defensive schemes. But on Friday, his athleticism was able to take over.

"It's been a little difficult at times," Rutledge says of getting so little action. "But I learned a lot from the process and I've just got to stay ready because my opportunity could be right around the corner."

About a minute after checking in, Rutledge made his presence felt with an offensive rebound and a put back while getting fouled. He pulled WVU to within four points and had a chance to make it three, but missed the ensuing free throw.

He admits he was cold at the time and just a few minutes later he connected on two consecutive free throws to give the Mountaineers a three-point lead.

With under a minute left in regulation, Rutledge was in position to gather a rebound on a missed free throw from Jabarie Hinds, but was called for an offensive foul that was questionable at best, and took two points off the board for WVU that could have sealed a victory.

"I just felt like I pushed him under the basket," says Rutledge. "The officials probably thought I pushed him a little too hard or I extended my arm, but I felt like it was a pretty good play."

Rutledge missed just one shot from the field, but that one shot that didn't fall is the reason he was yanked from the game 2:14 into overtime.

He was standing right in front of the WVU bench when he received a pass and found himself wide open to take a three. He took the shot, and at the next whistle, he took a seat with the rest of his teammates.

As he came to bench, Huggins pulled him aside and said, "Do what you can do. That's not you."

He didn't return to the game from that point on.

"Dom was good until he lost his mind and shot a three," Huggins said after the game. "I mean, he made plays. He blocked some shots, he rebounded the ball for us. Why he shoots a three is beyond me."

Rutledge isn't the only Mountaineer to have an identity crisis this season. It's something Huggins struggles with all the time with his young players, and again it reared its head to mess up an otherwise outstanding performance.

"It's an everyday thing," says Huggins. "Gary Browne was really good yesterday and wasn't very good today. Aaron Brown was really good yesterday, couldn't even play him today. It's an everyday thing. That's what we continue to fight with these guys. You've got to do your job everyday."

His play against the No. 7 team in the nation may have been enough to warrant getting a closer look in practice and as Big East play begins, but Rutledge knows it's up to him to build on a strong performance to prove himself going forward.

"I feel like I'm ready, but at the same time, it's the coach's decision and I'm completely with that," he says. "Whenever he feels like I'm ready, I'll be ready to play."

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