MORGANTOWN - If this was, indeed, the final home game for Kevin Jones and Truck Bryant, well, they went out on a high note.
The two West Virginia seniors combined for 50 points Tuesday night in the Mountaineers' 92-75 rout of DePaul.
With just under two minutes to play, coach Bob Huggins pulled the pair with the Mountaineers comfortably ahead by 21 points to a standing ovation. It was only the second time in the last 10 games - seven of them WVU losses - that Huggins could even think about pulling his starters with a game safely in hand.
It couldn't have come at a better time.
"Forget about senior night. It was just felt good to win again,'' Bryant said. "When both of us click like that, it's usually going to be a good night.''
Indeed, this was a good one for Jones, for Bryant and for the Mountaineers.
Jones, who leads the Big East in both scoring and rebounding, finished with 22 points and 16 boards. He also had two blocks, a steal and made nine of his 17 shots.
Bryant had his second strong game in a row with 28 points. He also had four steals.
"I wish we'd played that well from the start of the Big East season,'' said Jones, who had his 30th career double-double and his 19th this season. "If we had we'd be in much better shape right now.''
With the much-needed win, West Virginia (18-12, 8-9 Big East) maintains its hopes of finishing strong and earning a fifth consecutive NCAA tournament berth. Those hopes have waned in recent weeks as the Mountaineers lost seven of nine games.
Huggins, though, doesn't believe his team is in as critical a position as do many. In fact, when asked after Tuesday's game how many more games he thought his team needed to secure an NCAA bid, he didn't hesitate.
"I don't know if we need any more. I think we're in pretty good shape,'' said Huggins. "But I'd feel a lot better with a few more.''
Getting the next one, though, will be far tougher. The Mountaineers finish the regular season Saturday in Tampa against South Florida. The Bulls, who are also fighting for an NCAA berth, are 14-1 in home games this season despite being evicted from their on-campus Sun Dome because of renovations. Saturday's noon game is at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, where WVU played in the NCAA tournament last year.
As for DePaul, the struggle continues. The Blue Demons (11-18, 2-15) are now assured of finishing as the No. 16 seed in the Big East tournament for the fourth straight season.
Jabarie Hinds added 14 points for West Virginia, which shot just over 50 percent from the floor and dominated on the boards, outrebounding DePaul 47-27. Dominique Rutledge also had a second-straight strong game with eight points and seven rebounds.
DePaul made things only mildly interesting in front of a smallish and somewhat lethargic announced crowd of 10,255 at the Coliseum. West Virginia scored the first 11 points of the game and led by as many as 17 in the first half and then by 20 and more in the second.
Only when the Blue Demons went to an occasional press did they have any success. They managed to begin forcing turnovers in one brief stretch of the first half, scored 10 straight points in less than a minute and cut the lead to 27-20. DePaul got down to 33-27 a few moments later.
West Virginia kept the Blue Demons at bay, though, by playing solid defense.
"The first half I thought we guarded pretty good,'' Huggins said. "We made some plays defensively we hadn't been making.''
Because of that, DePaul's brief surge didn't last long. Bryant ignited a run that pushed the lead back to 16, 47-31, at halftime, then it was never within double digits in the second half. West Virginia actually started passing up shots to run the clock with seven minutes to play.
Cleveland Melvin and Brandon Young led DePaul with 21 points each.
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickm...@aol.com or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.
WEST VIRGINIA 92, DEPAUL 75
DePaul (11-18, 2-15)
Min FG FT R A P
Kelly 20 2-6 1-1 3 1 5
Melvin 27 9-15 2-2 8 1 21