Still, exhaustion might not have been Bryant's only issue. He was also involved in an altercation in the wee hours of Sunday morning near a downtown Morgantown bar (although he was apparently the victim, not the aggressor) and Huggins could not have been too happy about that. And, be it overwork or not, Bryant has also shot miserably the last month - 21 percent in six of the seven games combined prior to Thursday.
Bryant insists he doesn't know why Huggins elected not to start him.
"I don't know,'' he said after the game. "Coach came to me at shoot-around and said, 'I can't start you.' That's all I know. It's his decision.''
Regardless of the reason, the move seems to have helped at least somewhat. Bryant made his first shot off the bench - a 3-pointer - and was all over the floor on defense and under the basket. He did find himself wildly chasing Pitt's Lamar Patterson before giving up a 3-pointer on his first defensive turn in the game, but then had those four steals and seven boards.
Twice he hustled to follow freshmen Gary Browne and Jabarie Hinds to the basket after those two had steals that seemed ready to be turned into layups. When both missed their shots, Bryant was there to follow one in and got fouled on the other and went to the line.
That doesn't mean, though, that Bryant relishes a role as a sixth man.
"It's coach's decision and there's nothing I can do about that. I just go by what he says,'' Bryant said. "But as long as we get the win I have no worries.
"It's been rough. It's been a rough week. But at the end of the day I'm still here, we just got a win and I'm happy now.''
Huggins wouldn't venture a guess as to whether Bryant will return to the lineup when the team plays Wednesday night in South Bend, but it became even more obvious Thursday that the Mountaineers are a much better team when Bryant plays well. His two best games in the last seven were against Pitt and his 32-point game at Providence when he hit the game-tying and game-winning shots.
Perhaps not coincidentally, those are the only two games WVU won in that stretch, so if some bench time is in order, so be it.
"He hasn't guarded the way he's capable of guarding and he hasn't made any shots,'' Huggins said. "He just hasn't played as well as we need for him to play and so we tried something different.''
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickm...@aol.com or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.