WVU basketball: Seniors help snap losing skid, rout DePaul
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Even if it was just one night at the end of a season that has not gone according to script, things went as planned for West Virginia Tuesday.
On Senior Night before 10,255 at the Coliseum, Kevin Jones and Truck Bryant combined for 50 points in their final regular-season home game and the Mountaineers had their second-highest point total of the season in a 92-75 victory over DePaul.
WVU never trailed, led 11-0 and controlled the final 23 minutes in a win that pushed its record to 18-12 overall and 8-9 in the Big East. With one regular-season game remaining, the Mountaineers could still finish below .500 in conference play. No Big East team has been below .500 and made the NCAA Tournament as an at-large team in 18 years.
"Everything turned out the way I expected it to," Jones said. "It went the same way I envisioned (Monday) night. I hardly could sleep."
Bryant scored 28 points on 7-for-13 shooting and Jones added 22 points and 16 rebounds for his 19th double-double. The only two times the team's seniors combined for more points in a game were overtime games against Kansas State and Providence.
WVU won both of those and Tuesday walked off the floor victorious for just the third time in 10 games.
"It feels good to win," Bryant said. "I'm not even going to talk about Senior Night. It just feels good to win."
The Blue Demons (11-18, 2-15) were just what the Mountaineers needed. Set to finish in last place in the Big East for the fourth straight season, DePaul has the league's worst field-goal percentage defense, scoring defense and rebounding margin.
WVU shot 31-for-61 and the 50.8 percent was the highest in 11 games. The 92 points was more than any other game except the 97-62 home win against Alcorn State Nov. 17. The Mountaineers outrebounded DePaul 47-27, their second-best rebounding total and rebounding margin all season and, again, behind just the Alcorn State game.
DePaul played into WVU's strengths, which have been covered up by the opposition's plans. Teams don't spread out against the Mountaineers and instead pack the middle, which congests the area where WVU likes to rebound and dares the Mountaineers to make shots to win games.
DePaul presses and WVU was only rarely troubled on the way to its best offensive game in quite some time. The Mountaineers had just 11 turnovers and led by as many as 25 points. They tried only 11 3-point shots and had a season-high 46 points in the paint.
"When you press like that you spread the floor and when you open the floor you score more points," Coach Bob Huggins said. "That's the nature of our game. The more compacted things are, the less you score."
WVU took advantage and received promising performances all the way down the bench. Guard Jabarie Hinds was 6-for-8 for 14 points. The freshman was 6-for-30 for 15 points the previous four games. Forward Keaton Miles had five points, a career-high seven rebounds, four assists and two blocked shots in 25 minutes - the most the freshman has played since Jan. 14
"That's the best Keaton's played all year," Huggins said. "I thought Keaton was active and kind of what we've looked for Keaton to do all along."
Forward Dominique Rutledge had eight points and eight rebounds. Freshman Aaron Brown even made a 3-pointer during a second-half spurt for his only points, and his first 3 in three games. He was 2-for-11 the previous five games and had seen his team-high percentage slip five points from 45.8.
The sum of the contributions kept WVU in position to reach eighth place in the conference standings and get a first-round bye in the Big East Tournament. The Mountaineers have to win Saturday at South Florida (18-11, 11-5) and then have Seton Hall (19-10, 8-9) lose at DePaul later in the day.
DePaul shot 43.1 percent after the last two WVU opponents shot 61.4 and 50 percent. The Mountaineers blocked a season-high seven shots, had nine steals and scored 24 points off 13 DePaul turnovers.
Cleveland Melvin and Brandon Young both had 21 points for the Blue Demons and Moses Morgan added 15.
It wasn't as easy in the first half as the final score would indicate. The Mountaineers started 10-for-14 and were up 27-10 when Jones made a 3-pointer, his first since Feb. 11. Jones and Bryant were 6-for-9 from the floor and had 18 points as WVU threatened to run away and get some rest.
The Blue Demons hurried back into the game with a 10-0 run that took 1 minute, 24 seconds. It started with a DePaul basket, a Bryant turnover, another DePaul jumper, another Bryant turnover and then a DePaul 3. Miles missed a shot in the lane and the rebound led to a layup and a free throw by Young.
Jones ended the run with an inside score, but the Blue Demons got as close as six points when official Jamie Luckie called a technical foul on Huggins in a timeout. Young's two free throws made it 33-27.
Bryant had a three-point play and a layup and four others scored as WVU closed the half with a 14-4 run. Hinds made a 3 on the closing second for a 47-41 lead. Bryant started the second half with a reverse layup and the Mountaineers had their biggest lead.
"It just couldn't happen again," Bryant said. "We gave up a lot of leads in the past and it's not something we wanted to look back on. We needed to continue to play the way we had been playing."
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at email@example.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.