West Virginia 83, Villanova 69
Last Friday night against Baylor it was KJ, and tonight it was Truck, who scored a career-high 34 points to lead the Mountaineers to an 83-69 victory over Villanova in the Big East opener for both teams.
The game was a lot closer than the final score indicates, however.
“That’s the best 7-6 team there is in the country,” said West Virginia coach Bob Huggins. “I thought they were extremely physical.”
Villanova (7-6, 0-1) led 45-41 early in the second half when Jones had to go to the locker room t have a cut above his eye tended to. Huggins used a timeout to try and buy some time until Jones was able to return to the floor with 16:41 remaining.
“I called timeout just to speed Doc (trainer Randy Meador) up to get him back out here and get him into the game and just burn some time,” said Huggins.
With Jones back on the floor, West Virginia (10-3, 1-0) tied it at 45 on a Gary Browne layup, but Villanova answered, taking its final lead of the game, 53-52, with 12:41 left.
Bryant got things going with a 3, and Jabarie Hinds added a three-point play to give West Virginia a five-point lead, 58-53. The key stretch of the game came with 5:47 left and the score tied at 63 when Bryant hit two of three free throws, followed by a big Browne 3 from in front of the WVU student section to make it a five-point game.
After Maalik Wayn’s 3 pulled Villanova to within three, 68-65, Bryant answered with another 3, and then Browne followed with a driving layup with 2:55 remaining to give the Mountaineers an eight-point advantage, 73-65.
A Bryant jumper got it to 10 with 2:27 to go before the lead eventually swelled to as many as 16 with 32 seconds remaining.
“I think the thing that really turned the game around was we doubled ball screens,” said Huggins. “We ended up getting an offensive foul and I think we got two steals out of it - and two steals for layups.”
Bryant and Browne combined to score the final 22 points for West Virginia, out-pointing the entire Wildcat team, 22-12.
“Gary Browne, I thought he didn’t have a very good first half but I thought he had a really good second half,” said Huggins.
The Mountaineers three freshmen Browne, Hinds and Aaron Brown combined to score 25 points tonight.
Bryant was 12 of 23 from the floor, including 4 of 10 from 3, while knocking down 6 of 7 from the free throw line. Overall, WVU hit a respectable 15 of 22 from the line after coming into tonight’s game as the worst free throw shooting team in the Big East.
Jones contributed 13 points and seven rebounds while Browne scored 11 and Deniz Kilicli added 10 points and eight rebounds.
“KJ just got a ton of attention today,” said Huggins.
Wayns and Dominic Cheek scored 20 each while Mouphtaou Yarou added 13 points and eight rebounds for Villanova.
The Wildcats had a 40-33 advantage on the glass, but shot just 21.4 percent from 3 (3 of 14) while committing 15 turnovers.
“I think we’re more to the point where we can make adjustments defensively now than offensively,” said Huggins. “We went three times after a timeout and they didn’t run anything that I said to run - and it wasn’t even close - so we’re going to have to get better at that.”
An announced crowd of 11,262 watched tonight’s game.
“I thought it was a good team effort,” said Huggins. “We’ve got to continue to get better and we’ve got to continue to grow and we can’t continue to take plays off. We kind of got the game going the way we wanted it in the first half and we have a guy who just stands there and stares and his guy runs in and gets it and scores.”
West Virginia has a quick two-day turnaround, traveling to Seton Hall to face the 1-2 Pirates on Friday night. Seton Hall lost to top-ranked Syracuse, 75-49, earlier tonight in Syracuse.
“We’re going to have one day but I think the good thing is Seton Hall only has one day, too, and they spent a lot of time preparing for Syracuse’s zone,” said Huggins. “We’ve really got to have (his players) mentally with us tomorrow.
“I think we’re going to go earlier and get out of here a little earlier than we initially planned so we can get up there and get them off their feet.”
Friday’s game will be televised nationally on ESPN2.
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