Bryant's career night sends WVU past Miami (Fla.)
MORGANTOWN - Late Thursday night in Wichita, Kan., Deniz Kilicli was talking almost wistfully about how nice it would be if once, just once, he and his West Virginia teammates could put together a complete game.
At the time, the Mountaineers had just finished an 85-80, double-overtime win over Kansas State, but it was a mammoth struggle. WVU had to overcome fouls, poor shooting, turnovers and almost any other ill one could imagine. It had been that way all season, too, win or lose.
Well, Saturday night at the Coliseum the Mountaineers didn't exactly put it all together, but they were close.
Truck Bryant had career highs in points (27) and 3-pointers (5) and West Virginia shot 54 percent, dominated the boards, made free throws and didn't turn the ball over until a sloppy, meaningless final few minutes and won in a second-half runaway over Miami, 77-66, at the Coliseum.
Kilicli was also a monster, scoring 18 points in the post in front of a crowd of 12,257 - by far the largest of the season - that saw the Mountaineers improve to 6-2 before a week's break from games for final exams.
"It's getting better,'' Kilicli said when asked if this was closer to what he had in mind in terms of a complete performance. "After the Kansas State game, I said it's not going to get any worse than this. It's just going to get better. And that's what's going on - everybody helping each other. And that's what good teams do.''
Indeed, there was plenty of help going on in this one, a fact that one quick look at the boxscore confirms.
While Bryant had his best scoring game ever - he has 51 points in the last two games, coinciding with his extra shooting before each of those games - he had help. Kilicli not only had 18 points (one off his career high), he had eight rebounds and a rather astounding five assists. Freshman Gary Browne came off the bench and had nine points and six assists while replacing an ineffective Jabarie Hinds.
But perhaps most telling was this: West Virginia won easily despite getting just 12 points and nine rebounds from Kevin Jones, who was averaging 21.3 and 11.7.
"He didn't score, but he still played well and did things a lot of people don't see,'' said coach Bob Huggins. "But I've said all along, we need at least two of those three [veterans: Jones, Bryant and Kilicli] to play well. And we had two.''
The final score likely would have been much more lopsided had Miami not shot the lights out early, which prevented West Virginia from taking its first lead until early in the second half. Part of that Huggins naturally blamed on WVU's defensive effort, but some of it was just silly shooting by the Hurricanes (5-4).
Take Kenny Kadji, for example. The 6-foot-11 sophomore from Cameroon came into the game having taken three 3-point shots in his career without making one. He's also a 38.9 percent free-throw shooter. In that first half, he shot a pair of 3s and made both. He finished the game with three 3s in as many tries, and scored 15 points.
Then there was Garrius Adams. He actually does shoot 3s regularly, he just hasn't been making many, going a combined 4-for-16 since mid-November. He was 3-for-3 in the first 20 minutes and 4-for-6 for the game and had 15 points. Throw in some street ball shots from Malcolm Grant (17 points) and Miami's first-half leads of as many as eight points were understandable.
"He's usually a 15-foot guy,'' Kilicli said of Kadji. "We're not going to lose because he shoots five 3s. As long as we took care of Grant and their scorers, we were going to be OK.''
And in the second half he was right. After starting the game 5-for-7 on 3s, Miami went 4-for-16 and came back to earth. And that was also the time Bryant and the Mountaineers began putting things together. When the Mountaineers did put it together, it was impressive - a 27-3 run that turned a 37-33 deficit late in the first half into a 60-40 blowout 81/2 minutes into the second. Bryant had 12 of the first 17 second-half points for both teams combined and it was never close again.
"I just needed that one good game to get me going,'' said Bryant, who had 24 points in Thursday's win at Kansas State. "Now that it's going, I don't want it to stop.''
Well, it will stop for a while, at least. After playing two games in three days, the Mountaineers don't have another one for seven, until next Saturday's home game against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org.