A small but appreciative crowd of 10,255 honored the two seniors before tip off, and they responded with a rarity this season -- a game when both played well on the offensive end.
“They become a part of your family,” coach Bob Huggins said of the seniors. “You hate to see them go. You have so many times together.”
Bryant scored 28 points, and Jones added his typical double-double with 22 points and 16 rebounds. They combined to score 20 of WVU’s first 29, helping their team to a 27-10 lead early.
The Blue Demons (11-18, 2-15) came into Tuesday’s game with the Big East’s worst record, and it showed. They never mounted a serious rally, only momentarily coming within 33-27 after making a pair of free throws when Bob Huggins was called for a technical foul.
But just before halftime, Jabarie Hinds buried a 3-pointer and made it 47-31 at the break. The lead hovered in the double digits throughout the second half and was above 20 for much of the latter stages.
Bryant and Jones took a final curtain call, exiting a game at the Coliseum for what they hope was the last time with 1:54 to play and their team up 90-69. Though many fans had already started to leave their seats, the few thousand who remained gave a long, loud ovation to honor the end of the seniors’ careers.
Player of the Game
The two donned T-shirts in warmups with their pictures and a motto: “Dynamic Duo Tops the Mountain.” Jones sported a new hairdo, with the school’s “Flying WV” logo cut into the back of his head.
“I just wanted to show the fans, the people of West Virginia, how much I appreciate them,” Jones said. “Since I’ve been here, they’ve supported me, coming out to all the games, all the signs tonight. I just wanted to show how much this state and this university means to me.”
West Virginia (18-12, 8-9) was electric on offense all night long. It scored 92 points, its most since scoring 97 in a win over Alcorn State in the third game of the season. It shot 50.8 percent from the field (31-of-61), its highest percentage against a conference opponent since a Jan. 4 win over Rutgers.
“Shooting is kind of a fickle thing,” Huggins said. “It comes and goes.”
The Blue Demons got 21 points each from their two biggest stars, Cleveland Melvin and Brandon Young. But one of the nation’s worst rebounding teams (333rd in rebounding margin out of 338 teams in Division I) looked the part, getting dominated 47-27 on the glass.
The win didn’t figure to be a huge boost to WVU’s RPI, as DePaul was only the third opponent the Mountaineers have faced all season with an RPI rating of 200 or worse.
But still, Huggins felt as though this win may have cemented his team’s status as an NCAA Tournament team.
“I don’t know if we need any more,” he said. “I think we’re in pretty good shape.”
Still, WVU has one more chance to add to its postseason resume before the Big East tournament. It will travel to South Florida for a noon game on Saturday. The Bulls are also on the NCAA Tournament bubble and may need a win to secure their postseason fate.