Point guards dominate Irish
Bryant, Mazzulla outshine Irish guard Hansbrough in win
Published: Sunday, February 20, 2011
Updated: Sunday, February 20, 2011 22:02
It was the way the West Virginia basketball team had envisioned its two point guard lineup working all season.
The outside shooting of junior Truck Bryant would open up a driving lane for senior Joe Mazzulla.
That philosophy worked to perfection Saturday when the Mountaineers upset No. 8 Notre Dame 72-58 at the West Virginia University Coliseum. The pair combined to finish with 40 points, seven rebounds and seven assists while only committing one turnover against the Irish, who entered the game second in the Big East Conference standings.
"That's why it's important for us to play two point guards," Bryant said. "We felt it would work from the very beginning."
Bryant broke out of his near two-month slump to score 24 points, the most since the Brooklyn, N.Y., native scored 25 against Marquette on Jan. 1.
His two buckets from beyond the arch early in the second half helped spark a 17-4 West Virginia run in which the Mountaineers hit 4-of-5 3-pointers.
"It was (Bryant's) best game in a long time," said WVU head coach Bob Huggins. "His shots were falling, but his decision-making was better."
The junior entered the game 13 for his last 62 shot attempts and had only made three field goals in a game just once since Jan. 16.
Bryant shot 5-of-7 in the second half after ending the first half 0-for-4 from the field. Four of his five made shots were from three-point range.
"Some days it's not your night," Bryant said. "But it got a lot better in the second half.
"I've been struggling. But I'm back on track, and, hopefully, I can keep it going."
It was Mazzulla who supplied much of the early offensive production for the Mountaineers. He scored nine of his 16 points in the first half.
More importantly for the Mountaineers, Mazzulla held Notre Dame standout Ben Hansborough, one of the Big East's top scorers, to 7-of-18 from the field before Hansborough fouled out with 2:28 remaining.
Mazzulla was guarded by Hansborough, one of the Notre Dame guards who Bryant said WVU felt "couldn't guard the ball."
"We really took it as a challenge going against their guards," Mazzulla said. "We needed this game big time. We handled the game and handled the tempo. We controlled the game with our offense."
Bryant said the pair has the potential to carry the team in their Final Four regular season games, including West Virginia's game at Pittsburgh Thursday.
But to do so, the pair must continue to make their shots.
"Truck making shots and Joe driving to the basket kept us in the game," Huggins said. "When those two guys play well, we're a heck of a lot better."