Bryant, Big Run Key Mountaineers
MORGANTOWN Truck Bryant is not a player who lacks for confidence.
Even when he’s scuffling, like he was for a long stretch last season, he still figures the next one’s going in.
That was certainly the case Saturday night in a 77-66 victory against Miami as Bryant topped his career high with 27 points on 9 of 12 shooting, including 5 of 7 from 3-point land.
”I just needed that one good game to put me where I needed to be, and I had it (he scored 24 on Thursday against Kansas State),” Bryant said. ”Now I’m just in a groove, and I just feel like I can’t be stopped.”
With those two efforts, Bryant’s averaging 17 points per game this season. His career average is 10.5.
Bryant doesn’t think it will end here, either.
”I don’t want that to be my career high,” he said. ”I want to go higher and keep winning, most importantly.”
Bryant’s effort came one game after Kevin Jones upped his career high to 30 with a monster game against the Wildcats.
”If we can get 27 from Truck and 30 from K.J. every night, we’d have a chance,” WVU coach Bob Huggins said.
The secret, Bryant said, was the extra work he and assistant coach Jerrod Calhoun have been putting in prior to games, as much as 45 minutes, where Bryant shoots until he’s in the groove. He says he makes at least 100.
For a long time, it looked like the Mountaineers were going to need him to make 100.
West Virginia (6-2) played from behind the entire first half and never led, mostly because Miami’s big men – 6-foot-11 Kenny Kadji and 6-6 Garrius Adams – were 5-for-5 from beyond the 3-point line. It’s not often in the college game that you see a guy who ducks when walking under the rim draining them from outside like Kadji, a Cameroon native, did in the first half.
”He hadn’t done it all year,” Huggins said of Kadji. ”But that’s what happens against us. People who aren’t supposed to play, play. People who aren’t supposed to make shots, make shots.”
Kadji, a redshirt sophomore, scored 15 points and made a trio of 3-pointers. He was 0-for-2 on the season beyond the arc coming in and 0-for-3 for his career, which began at the University of Florida.
West Virginia stayed close in the first half behind 10 points, including a pair of 3-pointers, by Bryant and eight inside by Deniz Kilicli.
Then the Mountaineers began the second half on a 25-3 run with the Hurricanes (5-4), losers of four of five, not making their first field goal until the 10:55 mark when Adams got an offensive rebound and made the putback. The Canes missed their first nine shots and turned the ball over five times during the stretch.
”We guarded a lot better, and I thought our energy was a lot better,” Huggins said. ”We changed how we guarded the ball screen, which I think slowed them down coming off the ball screen a little bit, and we made some shots. (WVU was 14 of 24 in the second half and shot 54 percent from the field for the game). Truck made some shots, and everybody looks better when the ball goes in.”
Kilicli, who had eight points during WVU’s early second-half spurt, wound up with 18, one shy of his career high, and added eight rebounds.
Jones just missed what would have been his sixth double-double in eight games this season. He had 12 points and nine rebounds.
Malcom Grant led Miami with 17 points.