But Ruoff raced back and blocked Jackson's shot, just one fine defensive play in a smothering first half that got the Mountaineers started on a 74-62 victory over Notre Dame on Wednesday night in the second round of the Big East tournament.
"I think the whole tone of the thing was we were very aggressive in the first half," West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said. "We were very aggressive defensively and trying to rebound the ball."
Ruoff scored 25 points, Devin Ebanks had 17 rebounds and West Virginia built a 36-18 at halftime lead by pushing the Fighting Irish around, especially Luke Harangody, who shot just 2-of-6 for four points in the half.
The Mountaineers then held off every surge led by Harangody, who muscled his way open in the second and ran off nine straight points and 17 of 22 to help the Irish get within eight with 2:27 to play.
But Notre Dame (18-14), which was ranked as high as seventh before losing seven straight, got no closer and the Mountaineers (22-10) advanced to the quarterfinals and a matchup with No. 2-seeded and second-ranked Pittsburgh. The Panthers are one of three Big East teams that could end up with a top seeding in the NCAA field.
The Big East's regular-season scoring leader, Harangody finished with 27 points and eight rebounds after shooting just 3-for-17 in Notre Dame's first-round win.
"I think the second half -- hit a couple of shots, got a little bit of rhythm, established myself better in the post than I did in the first half, "Harangody said.
Ruoff became West Virginia's leader for 3-pointers when he hit one at 13:52 of the first half. He shot 4-for-7 from beyond the arc as West Virginia was 11-for-20 (55 percent) from 3-point range. He didn't score in the Mountaineers' last game, a 62-59 loss to Louisville but said he was over the outing and proved it with three 3s before the break.
"The advice I got from my coach was put it behind me," Ruoff said.
Da'Sean Butler, despite shooting 4-of-15 in the first half, had 20 points for the Mountaineers. Ebanks added seven points and Darryl Bryant had 17 for West Virginia -- shooting 3-of-6 from 3-point range in the first half.
As time ran out, Ruoff brought the ball upcourt to a loud ovation from the sellout crowd at Madison Square Garden, where West Virginia improved to 11-5 in its last 16 games there.
Kyle McAlarney had 17 points in Notre Dame's second loss this season to West Virginia.
"At the end of the day, the offensive board hurt us," said Notre Dame coach Mike Brey, whose squad was outrebounded 20-7 in that category and 52-32 overall. "We just couldn't keep them off the offensive board. They only shoot 30-some percent and you score 74 points."
West Virginia, which actually shot 35.9 percent, overwhelmed Notre Dame from the start, holding the Irish to just two field goals in its first 13 shots to open a 17-5 lead with 11:48 to go in the first half.
Notre Dame finished 7-of-27 (25.9 percent) in the half, and it could've been worse had the Mountaineers shot better than 35 percent (14-for-40).
The Mountaineers outrebounded the Irish 31-16, 13-2 on offense, in the first half.
"In the first half it was hard, hard to get entries with their -- their length bothers you on the backboard and bothers you in passing lanes," Brey said.
After being thoroughly outplayed for 20 minutes, Notre Dame came out and made its first five shots of the second to cut the lead to 39-30. Harangody made his first three shots in the run.
But West Virginia replied and built the lead back to 20, going 9-for-9 from the free throw line in the stretch, including three when Ruoff was fouled on a 3-point attempt, before Harangody helped bring the Irish back.
"When they make perimeter shots it's like so hard because they spread you so much and Luke is so good down there," Huggins said. "I thought we made critical stops in the second half. You're talking about a team that was, I think in the top 10 in the country early in the year."