PoG: WVU - Rutgers

It was an all-around solid performance from No. 8 West Virginia on both ends of the floor, which admittedly made the task of selecting the standouts a bit more difficult. Still, the BlueGoldNews.com staff quickly came to a consensus on who deserved top billing.


Truck Bryant.

Perhaps we had all forgotten what the Mountaineers' offense could look like if players knocked down open jump shots -- and, perhaps more importantly, if someone had the word "guard" next to their name in the starting lineup.

Bryant said on Tuesday that he was "about 90 percent" -- which was better than he had been feeling since his last start, which came Dec. 19 against Cleveland State.

If Wednesday night's performance is any indication of what the sophomore does at 90 percent health, perhaps head coach Bob Huggins will want to arrange for him to stay 10 percent below perfect.

Bryant displayed many of his considerable offensive skills, but kept things under control. He had 15 points on 5-of-6 field goal shooting, but perhaps more importantly, he had only one turnover in 20 minutes of play.

Admittedly, the Brooklyn, N.Y., native was credited with only two assists. But his work in keeping the West Virginia offense under control and calm could not be quantified in the box score.

Bryant's play was the chief reason why the same Mountaineers who had struggled so mightily to run a fluid offensive set in recent weeks looked so smooth on that end of the floor for much of the game against Rutgers.


Joe Mazzulla.

Huggins went from having no point guards that could play consistently (hence the highly unorthodox starting lineup comprised of five forwards he had been using for the last two weeks) to having both play at a high level on Wednesday.

While Mazzulla simply doesn't have enough strength in his shoulder to light up the scoreboard himself too often, he did plenty of work on both ends to make us seriously consider giving him top honors.

In 15 minutes of action, the junior had four points, five assists, two steals and a rebound. He did not turn the ball over.

Joe Mazzulla

It was a solid, if not spectacular, all-around performance from Mazzulla. Huggins particularly had to like that the Johnston, R.I., native showed some of his trademark intensity on both ends of the floor, nearly diving over the scorer's table in an attempt to save a ball before it headed out of bounds.

There's simply no way to explain just how much better West Virginia can be if both of its point guards can play their roles at a high level. Fans who watched Wednesday night's game saw evidence of just how important each player is to WVU's success.

  • Defensive intensity.

    Huggins said afterwards that, upon watching tape of Purdue's dismantling of his team on New Year's Day, he saw evidence of tired legs from his players.

    As a result, the famously intense coach backed off things a bit in practice in recent days. The renewed energy supplies that resulted were visually evident.

    Players applied better pressure to the ball at all positions. They made life difficult for RU's Mike Rosario (who Huggins called "one of the best players in the Big East" on Tuesday), allowing him to hit only four of his 14 field goal attempts.

    The Mountaineers forced 20 Scarlet Knights turnovers, leading to a 27-6 edge in points off turnovers.

    For the first time in a while, WVU looked like it was playing a Bob Huggins defense. The results were predictable -- the team's first blowout victory in nearly a month.

  • Kevin Jones.

    At this point, it's getting almost obnoxiously common to point out the forward's efficient play in all phases of the game. But time and time again, he puts in a performance worth noting.

    There was the obvious -- the sophomore led WVU in scoring with 19 points and was the team's second-leading rebounder with eight.

    The way he did it that continues to impress. Jones needed only nine field goal attempts (he made eight) and one free throw to score his points. He hit both of his 3-point shots, and even added three assists.

    In the game notes the West Virginia sports communications department puts out before each game, Jones is labeled as "Mr. Consistency." There couldn't be a more fitting name for the Mount Vernon, N.Y., native.

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