MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Truck Bryant scored 28 points and Kevin Jones added 22 points and 16 rebounds to lead West Virginia to a much-needed 92-75 victory over DePaul Tuesday night at the WVU Coliseum.
“You expect Truck and KJ to be good,” said West Virginia coach Bob Huggins. “If they’re not we’re not any good, but it was a good effort for a lot of people.”
Tonight’s game was the final regular season home appearance for Jones and Bryant, who have combined to score 3,300 points, grab 1,300 rebounds and produce three NCAA tournament appearances and a 93-43 overall record following tonight’s victory over the Blue Demons.
Jones is now seventh on the WVU all-time scoring list with 1,766 points and fifth in career rebounds with 1,023, while Bryant is now 16th in scoring with 1,545 points and tied with Seldon Jefferson for 10th in career assists with 386. With 14 more assists Bryant can become only one of three players in school history to score more than 1,500 points and hand out 400 assists along with Ron “Fritz” Williams and Greg Jones. Kevin Jones has already joined Jerry West as the only two players in school annals to score more than 1,700 points and pull down more than 1,000 rebounds.
That’s gives you a pretty good idea of what these two have meant to Mountaineer basketball.
“I’ve wanted so bad to get this team to enough wins so we don’t have to sit there and worry about being in the NCAA tournament for those two seniors that have meant so much for so long,” said Huggins.
Tonight, Bryant had his ninth 20-point scoring performance of the season while shooting better than 50 percent from the floor (7 of 13). He was 2 of 5 from behind the 3-point arc and knocked down 12 of 16 from the free throw line.
Jones, too, was a big factor tonight with his 19th double-double of the season and his 18th 20-point game. Jones was 9 of 17 from the floor and added three free throws to his scoring line.
Freshman Jabarie Hinds gave the Mountaineers a boost with 14 points on 6 of 8 shooting, while forward Dominique Rutledge came off the bench to score 8 points and grab eight rebounds. Rutledge has now scored 14 points and grabbed 13 rebounds in his last two games.
“I talked to (the team) earlier today about betting back to being a team that just won’t lose,” said Huggins. “We could have lost the Kansas State game and we could have lost the Missouri State or the Cincinnati game, and we wouldn’t. Let’s get back to being that team.”
West Virginia (18-12, 8-9) scored the first nine points of the game and never looked back, leading by 16 at halftime and by as many as 25 late in the second half.
“I thought we attacked their press pretty well and by and large, I thought we made good decisions tonight – when to attack, when not to attack,” said Huggins.
Cleveland Melvin and Brandon Young scored 21 points each for the Blue Demons, now 11-18, 2-15.
West Virginia still has a shot at a first round bye in the Big East tournament with a win at South Florida and a loss by Seton Hall at DePaul on Saturday. The Pirates own the tiebreaker over West Virginia by defeating the Mountaineers earlier this year in Newark.
West Virginia is going to have its hands full on Saturday against a South Florida team that is right in the thick of the NCAA tournament discussion. The Bulls are coming off a 46-45 win over Cincinnati on Saturday and face 18th-ranked Louisville tomorrow night looking for their 19th victory of the season. USF is currently fifth in the league standings and with a win against the Cardinals, could jump up into a tie with Georgetown and Notre Dame for third place.
“They’re long and there is just nowhere to go,” said Huggins. “They beat Cincinnati 46-45 and Cincinnati can shoot the ball so we’re going to have to try and figure out a way to open it up a little bit and not let them pack it in like that.”