MORGANTOWN - West Virginia opened Big East play Wednesday night at the Coliseum with a Monster Truck performance.
Truck Bryant upped his career high for a second time in three weeks, this time with 34 points as he led the Mountaineers to an 83-69 victory against Villanova.
"I know I'm tired," said Bryant who spent 39 minutes trying to guard the Wildcats' best player (Maalik Wayns) while simultaneously playing that role on his own team.
West Virginia’s Truck Bryant scored a career-high 34 points against Villanova to lead the Mountaineers to an 83-69 win Wednesday in Morgantown.
That's not always easy with Kevin Jones wearing a Mountaineers uniform, but Jones was cut above his eye 30 seconds into the second half and missed 2 minutes. During that time, West Virginia (10-3 overall, 1-0 Big East) was outscored 9-3 and lost what had been a three-point lead.
Bryant, who was 12 of 23 from the field, took over, scoring 21 points in the second half and helping the Mountaineers push a lead to as many as 16 with 32 seconds remaining.
"Truck Bryant was outstanding," Villanova coach Jay Wright said. "We had no answer for him. We couldn't guard him in man-to-man, and we tried to go zone and they did a great job of when we went zone and waiting until we lost him. (He) was just awesome. He played like a big-time senior and a Big East guard."
Bryant said he felt good from the time he opened his cereal box Thursday morning, once opting to pass on a wide open Jabarie Hinds in transition because he knew he was going to make it himself.
"I mentioned to Kevin Noreen before the game, 'I just feel good. I feel very good,' " Bryant said. "He came after the game and said, 'yeah, you did feel good. '"
West Virginia coach Bob Huggins sure liked what he saw. Bryant came out for just a short breather less than a minute after missing an assignment. Then went right back in.
"He took a lot better shots," Huggins said of Bryant. "I thought his balance was a lot better. I thought he took step-in shots better."
Huggins also said the game was an illustration of how important Jones is to the Mountaineers. He scored just two points after taking the spill, but the Mountaineers outscored the Wildcats 81-60 when Jones was playing.
"He gets everybody where they're supposed to be," Huggins said. " And he gets so much attention and opens things us."
It was the first Big East game for West Virginia's large freshman class, which was wide-eyed at halftime, Bryant said.
"I knew it was going to be a rough one," he said. "They were saying at halftime those refs don't call anything. No, it's Big East play, they let men play. That's what we have to do, just play. I felt like Villanova out-toughed us in the first half and that's not what we're about. So we came out in the second half and just took it to them."
Huggins didn't tell the youngsters much, just that there's only 17 more.
So how'd they do?
Aaron Brown hit a big 3-pointer and finished with eight points and eight rebounds. Gary Browne hit a big 3-pointer and wound up with 12 points.
Here's what Wright thought of Hinds, who was co-New York Player of the Year last season along with Achraf Yacoubou, who played seven minutes and didn't score for the Wildcats.
"Hinds is really good and he took some tough shots, but he's really good with the ball and a good decision-maker," Wright said. "For a freshman point guard in his first Big East game, five assists and one turnover is really good."
Hinds also had six points and four rebounds in 32 minutes.
West Virginia led 40-36 at halftime, despite missing its first eight shots and not scoring until Deniz Kilicli put back a layup after 3 had gone by. Still, the Mountaineers wound up shooting 47 percent from the field, as they went 30 of 56 the rest of the way.
Kilicli rounded out West Virginia's double-figure scorers with 10 points and a team-best eight rebounds.
Wayns and Dominic Cheek each scored 20 points to lead Villanova.