Bryant scored a career-high 34 points in an 83-69 victory over Villanova to open Big East Conference play 1-0. Jones, on the other hand, could only muster two second-half points.
“If KJ isn’t having the game that he wants to have, I’m going to step up,” Bryant said. “I was just in the zone … I made shots, made open passing – I think I did a good job of just playing an all-around game.”
After a failed attempt at a 2-3 zone led to six straight points for the Wildcats, the Mountaineers went on a 20-4 run led by Bryant, who scored 10 of those points to take their largest lead of the game at 16 with 32 seconds to play.
Bryant scored 21 points in the second half including three threes that allowed the Mountaineers to run away convincingly near the end of the contest.
“He took better shots in the second half. His balance was a lot better,” said WVU head coach Bob Huggins.
Outside of Bryant, Jones, freshman point guard Gary Browne and junior forward Deniz Kilicli, who is dealing with a hip injury, scored in double-figures with 13, 11 and 10 points, respectively.
Player of the Game
12-of-23 from field
The Mountaineers were out-rebounded by seven, but forced 15 turnovers that led to 24 points. WVU, on the other hand, had just seven turnovers – the best total of the season.
WVU shot 53.8 percent in the second half and 46.9 percent for the game. The Mountaineers made 15-of-22 free throws and all but four attempts in the second half.
“I felt like Villanova out-toughed us in the first half, and that’s not what we’re all about,” Bryant said. “We came out in the second half and just brought it to them.”
Three Villanova players – guard Maalik Wayns, guard Dominic Cheek and center Mouphtaou Yarou – scored in double figures for the Wildcats. Wayns and Cheek had 20 apiece. No other Villanova player had more than six points.
After Villanova took 4-0 lead, the Mountaineers came back with six straight points – four of those coming from Bryant – to take their first lead at 6-4.
Villanova would strike back to take a 10-8 lead on a 3-pointer from Cheek, but the Mountaineers would go on a 10-2 run to take a 20-14 lead.
WVU wouldn’t be able to take a larger lead than six points in the first half, and Villanova was eventually able to tie the game at 25-25 with 5:52 remaining in the half.
Four quick points from Jones and freshman guard Aaron Brown forced Villanova coach Jay Wright to call a timeout with 4:51 remaining down 29-25.
WVU jumped back out to a six-point lead following a Jones layup and free throw. The Mountaineers took a 40-36 lead at the half, as forward Dominique Rutledge’s last-second banked-in score was waved off.
WVU was out-rebounded by two in the first half, but the Wildcats turned the ball over five more times than the Mountaineers. WVU controlled points off turnovers 11-to-4 in the first half.
Cheek had 13 points in the first half, which is more than he had scored in all but one Big East game in his career.
Bryant and Jones combined for 24 first-half points for the Mountaineers. Kilicli, despite a lingering hip pointer injury, had eight points and six rebounds in the first half.
Early in the second half, Jones went down with an injury to his face, as teammate Keaton Miles elbowed Jones sending him to the floor. His eye was bleeding, and he immediately went to the locker room for treatment with WVU up 40-38
With Jones out of the game, Villanova was able to take its first lead since 11:36 left in the first half.
Jones returned to the game with WVU trailing 45-43.
The game went back-and-forth for much of the next few minutes, as the Mountaineers would take a one-point lead on a 3-pointer from Bryant, but Villanova would follow with four straight points to take the lead right back.
Another 3-pointer by Bryant and a big drive and layup plus a free throw by from freshman point guard Jabarie Hinds gave the Mountaineers a 58-53 lead with 9:51 to play.
WVU would take a six-point lead at 61-55 on a 3-pointer by Hinds following a scrum for the ball on Villanova’s side of the court to ignite a crowd of 11,262.
After that, the Mountaineers would attempt a 2-3 zone that failed and allowed the Wildcats to go on a 6-0 run to tie the game at 63-63.
However, two free throws from Bryant and a deep 3-pointer from Browne put the Mountaineers back up five with under five minutes to play.
A three from Bryant and a layup from Browne gave the Mountaineers their largest lead of the game at eight with under three to play.
Brown finished with eight points.
“I’ve been to Big East games before, and it’s electric,” Brown said. “We don’t see ourselves as freshmen, we’re players. We just go out there and play just like anybody else.”
Hinds added six. Browne and Hinds scored all of their 17 points in the second half.
Jones did not speak to media following the game, as he had to see the medical staff for treatment of his injury.