It was Senior Night at West Virginia and their two senior stars — Kevin Jones and Truck Bryant — went out in style as the Mountaineers won a crucial game that may have solidified their place in the NCAA Tournament, 92-75, over DePaul Tuesday.
The victory gave WVU an 18-12 record, 8-9 in Big East play, with the final regular season game Friday at South Florida. DePaul is 11-18 and 2-15 in the conference.
“I don’t think we need to win any more games to get in,” Coach Bob Huggins said.
Bryant led the Mountaineers in scoring with 28 points while Jones, who is the leading candidate for Big East Player of the Year honors, had his 19th double-double with 22 points and 16 rebounds.
“I don’t think he’s getting the notoriety nationally he ought to get because he’s not a high flier,” said Huggins, who has been pushing Jones all season as potential Big East Player of the Year. “He does it every day and at the end of the day he’ll get his 20 and 11 and does it on an incredibly consistent basis against a tremendous schedule.”
Both players have left an indelible mark on WVU basketball, each surpassing 1,500 points in his career.
Jones admitted that sometimes he thinks about his place in Mountaineer history.
“I think about it sometimes, but my career is not over,” he said. “Hopefully, it has another month to go.”
Bryant finished the game with 1,545 points and Jones with 1,766.
“Those guys have had terrific college careers,” DePaul Coach Oliver Purnell said. “Those young men have obviously done a lot here and it’s probably appropriate, but much to chagrin they played the way they played tonight.”
Jones, doing what he does best, scored the game’s first basket on a put back of his own miss and by the time the half ended with WVU in charge at 47-31. Jones had scored 13 points on six of eight shooting and had added seven rebounds.
Bryant hit his first two 3-point shots and was no less on the mark, leading all scorers at halftime with 15 points.
“When I hit my first two shots I usually get on a roll,” he said.
DePaul made its run midway in the first half through pressure, running off 10 straight points to narrow the margin to 33-27.
With the game at six points Bryant stole the ball and cruised coast to coast for the layup, drawing a foul from Edwind McGhee and hitting the free throw. From that point on WVU outscored the Blue Demons 10-2 to take control by 16 points at 47-31.
“Truck not only scores, but he solidifies their offense,” Purnell said. “We didn’t do too well in that and he made us pay every way — not only offensively, but contesting us on the perimeter and Jones dominated the paint.”
Jones offered some addition evidence of why Huggins believes he’s the Player of the Year four minutes into the second half when he missed a jump shot from the foul line but hustled back under the basket and wrestled it away from a couple of Blue Demons then muscled his way back up to hit the follow and draw a foul.
The second half was all the Mountaineers as they got outstanding play out of freshman guard Jabarie Hinds, who had 14 points and six assists, while freshman Keaton Miles had his best game of the year with five points, seven rebounds and four assists.
Cleveland Melvin and Brandon Young led DePaul with 21 points each, while Moses Morgan came off the bench to score 15. Melvin had eight of DePaul’s 27 rebounds, as they were crushed by 20 on the boards.
Email Bob Hertzel at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @bhertzel.