Bryant, after a rough early start in which he had defensive lapses and turned the ball over, returned to spark West Virginia through most of the game. Bryant scored a career high 25 points, scoring both inside and out as WVU made a second-half run. Bryant made four of his six 3-point attempts and converted several runners and lay-ups to lead the Mountaineers in scoring.
More importantly, Bryant remained in control of the offense and made good decisions -- at least for the most part. During his long stretch of good play, Bryant didn't force shots, didn't drive wildly to the basket and got the ball to teammates in the proper places, and at the proper times, in the offense. He finished the game with three assists and a steal.
Bryant still, however, had some critical mistakes at the most important of junctures. He turned the ball over on a bad pass intended for teammate Casey Mitchell on a play that head coach Bob Huggins admitted he should not have called, and fired up a forced runner in the lane when West Virginia needed to take a three late in the game. Still, his overall play, which was the best it has been this year, was an encouraging sign for a team at the bottom of the Big East standings.
It looked, for all the world, like another forgettable outing for Deniz Kilicli. The sophomore center turned the ball over on West Virginia's first two possessions of the game, leading to another quick hook and a long stint on the Mountaineer bench. He did return to hit a hook shot and help spark WVU's rally from a ten-point first half deficit, but for the most part he was a non-entity in the opening 20 minutes.
All that changed after halftime, when Kilicli opened play with six consecutive points to push the Mountaineers into a 40-40 tie. During the stretch, Kilicli was much more smooth in the post, taking shots that presented themselves but not forcing anything when openings weren't apparent. He continued his good play throughout the half, twice pinning Marquette defenders deep in the lane for eachs shots, and hitting a big pair of free throws down the stretch to forge another tie at 68-all.
Kilicli finished with 14 points on 5-9 shooting, and also grabbed five rebounds, including four on the offensive end. He had just one more turnover after his two to open the game, and dished out three assists.
John Flowers' foul trouble and unavailability for long stretches of games has played a big part in several contests this year, and it did so again against the Golden Eagles. Flowers, who provides the most consistent energy, defense and shot blocking for the Mountaineers, picked up his fourth foul with more than 14 minutes to go in the second half. That, of course, sent him to the bench, where he remained until just 3:32 remained in the contest.
Limited to just 21 minutes, Flowers was never able to get into the flow of the game. He missed his only shot of the contest, and grabbed just two rebounds before fouling out in the final two minutes. He did have two blocked shots, and changed a couple of others, but his absence for more than half of the final 20 minutes was critical for a Mountaineer team that continues to struggle on defense and in rebounding the ball.
Who'd have thought a Bob Huggins team, three-plus years into his tenure at his alma mater, would morph into a John Belein squad? Against Marquette, WVU was again over-reliant on three-pointers, got crushed on the boards and was outscored by a significant margin at the free throw line.
In the first half, WVU again failed to get the ball inside, relying instead on three-point launches to stay in the game. West Virginia did his six in the opening 20 minutes, but the result was that WVU again failed to earn a trip to the free throw line during that period. WVU treated defense like an afterthought, again allowing too much penetration, and as a result the Golden Eagles outscored WVU by seven points from the free throw line. Finally, Marquette, despite not holding any size advantage over the Mountaineers, outrebounded them by 10 (34-24) and had 14 offensive grabs which they converted into a number of second chance point,s including an uncontested rebound and dunk that gave Marquette it's final lead of the game.