Truck, Mountaineers push past Davidson

Truck Bryant scored 22 points to propel West Virginia past Davidson 84-70 in the foul-marred opening contest of the Puerto Rico Tip-off Tournament.

A pair of early Bryant bank shots off drives – along with a steal and lay-in – helped pace the Mountaineers to an early 18-11 edge. Then, with Davidson continuing to stay in the game at 28-20 with six minutes left before the break, Bryant finished a 10-0 run with another driving bucket. It was much needed, as West Virginia didn't record an offensive rebound in the first nine minutes of play, and was outrebounded 21 to 20 in the opening period despite a 42-29 lead.

The lack of flow continued throughout the second half, at least partially due to a whopping 67 total fouls called. West Virginia (2-0) shot a tournament record 49 free throws, making just 31, and never truly secured the game until Bryant nailed a three-pointer to push the advantage to 75-60 with two minutes left.

"Davidson did the only thing they could try to do to win the game," WVU head coach Bob Huggins said. "That was make it as ugly as they could make it. And they did. We played right into their hands."

Indeed, West Virginia's timely foul line misses were counteracted only by Davidson's three-point futility as the ‘Cats missed 20 of 22 overall and narrowly avoided breaking a string of 507 consecutive games played in which a three was made. Davidson twice made second half pushes to get within at least 10, but each time the Mountaineers were able to answer – the last of which was Bryant's three.

Bryant's last free throw shot sealed the Puerto Rico Tournament record for team foul shots in a game with 51 seconds remaining. The junior made a three-pointer with eight seconds left for his final points, and Davidson answered with its second three of the game for the final margin.

"It's not just Truck," Huggins said. "I want them all to step up. … Miss 18 free throws? We're not going to beat anybody any good. We take so many plays off, it's hard to figure out where to start."

Casey Mitchell scored 12 points, while John Flowers had 11 before fouling out. Dalton Pepper came off the bench to score 10 points, including a five-for-five effort from the line. Kevin Jones also had 10 before becoming the last of three Mountaineers to foul out. The first was forward Deniz Kilicli, who had five fouls in as many minutes and failed to record a point or a rebound. Dan Jennings had 10 rebounds.

WVU committed 30 fouls. Davidson was called for 37 and had four players foul out. Two of those were starters. Four other players finished the game with four fouls. Brenden McKillop and De'Mon Brooks each scored 15 points to lead the Wildcats.

"They grabbed and bumped us every play," Huggins said. "We didn't guard them as well. We aren't doing the kind of things we need to do to be a really good team. People are used to seeing West Virginia, people diving on the floor."

The Mountaineers advance to play the winner of Nebraska-Vanderbilt tomorrow at 12:30 p.m. EST.

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