He wasn't the high scorer, or the top rebounder, in West Virginia's 64-50 win over USF. However, his steady play off the bench, and a lack of mistakes, led to Kevin Jones' nomination as our player of the game.
Jones' story was one of consistency, which has been his calling card for much of the season. He was 5-8 from the field for his ten points, and collected five rebounds while blocking two shots in 29 minutes of play. Most importantly, however, was the fact that he was dependable on both ends of the floor, playing solid defense for the most part (he did miss one switch that allowed a USF dunk) while helping control the Bulls' early success inside.
Jones' style of play, while not flashy or attention-getting, sparked WVU when it trailed in the early going. He came off the bench and hit two consecutive shots to keep West Virginia close, then canned a jumper on the Mountaineers' last possession of the first half to give them a three point edge at the break.
Rebounding was one of the keys to the game -- one in which neither team shot particularly well. The Mountaineers owned a 38-25 rebounding edge, and grabbed 15 on the offense end. USF simply didn't get a lot of second chance opportunities after the first few minutes of the first half, in which the Bulls got a couple of offensive rebounds and stickbacks. For the game, West Virginia collected 23 second chance points, while the Bulls had but 12.
Freshman Truck Bryant had a solid outing, and was able to build on a strong start in which he scored five of WVU's first seven points. Perhaps buoyed by that strong start, Bryant ran the offense well and avoided the turnovers and wild drives that have plagued him during his initial season. Bryant finished with 13 points, two assists and one steal in 25 minutes of action. More importantly, he did not have a turnover.
USF pushed the ball into the lane early, getting a few hoops to help build an early 20-17 lead. Clearly, USF had checked out the WVU - Cincinnati game tape, and was determined to attack WVU on the interior. West Virginia was able to stem the tide by rotating between its point drop and 1-3-1 zone, which kept the Bulls from getting clean entry looks into its big men. USF managed just 23 points in the second half and shot just 40% from the field for the game -- both indicators of West Virginia's improved defensive play.
At the same time, the Mountaineers were able to limit USF star Dominique Jones to just 13 shots. While he did make seven of those tries, he wasn't able to get on the roll that he did in WVU's narrow home win in January, when he single-handedly put the Bulls in position to spring an upset.