Truck looked just like new against Irish
Published: Sunday, February 20, 2011
Updated: Sunday, February 20, 2011 22:02
Truck Bryant admitted Saturday that he hasn't had a very good last month.
The junior point guard hasn't been able to hit a shot consistently. He started to lose confidence, and he was having troubles back at home.
His patented laugh was not as boisterous to us media folk for quite some time.
That same chuckle, in fact, hadn't been heard inside the WVU Coliseum by media members since mid-January.
"It's not that I haven't been focused. I've been focused. But there's been a lot of things going on in my mind," Bryant said. "I've been thinking about a lot of things, and I just need to focus on basketball."
That laugh was back Saturday.
Bryant shot himself out of his self-proclaimed slump by hitting four second-half 3-pointers and finishing with 24 points in a 72-58 upset of No. 8 Notre Dame.
"It's a huge sigh of relief. I hadn't been playing well at all, and I haven't been helping my team out," he said. "I'm just happy to come out and make some shots and get this win."
Prior to Saturday's game, Bryant had not made more than one 3-pointer in a game since Jan. 13. In fact, he had made more than two just once this season and started to look like the player who was kind of fading out toward the end of the season like he did a year ago.
He didn't want that to happen, though.
Bryant was seen in the Coliseum working on his shot by himself following the WVU women's basketball team's game against Connecticut. He did that a lot over the last month.
"I was making shots before practice and getting some shots up in the gym, and tonight it finally fell," Bryant said.
Because Bryant hit his open shots for the first time in more than a month, it opened up things for other players including point guard Joe Mazzulla and forward Kevin Jones.
Mazzulla, playing more of the traditional point guard position while Bryant takes over the shooting guard role, finished with 16 points and seven assists. He was able to drive inside the lane multiple times, because the defense wasn't able to collapse on him after Bryant had success from the outside.
"With us two in the game at the same time putting pressure on the rim, it's big," Bryant said.
Because those two had success, Jones was able to get back to what he does best – take open shots and be active on the glass. He had just his fourth double-double this season, finishing with 14 points and 10 rebounds.
The last time he had more than 14 points was also the last time Bryant had more than 11 points.
"Truck was awesome today. As his roommate and friend, I just keep telling him to shoot and have confidence in your shot, and it will go in," Jones said. "We've both been putting extra time in at the gym … and his shot was really falling in today. I'm very happy for him."
But Bryant needs to prove his shot is back for more than just one home game. The Mountaineers finish their regular season schedule with four of the toughest games left in the conference. They play two straight road games against No. 4 Pittsburgh and Rutgers and then head back home for two games against No. 12 Connecticut and No. 16 Louisville.
Without Bryant playing the way he did in the second half of Saturday's contest, West Virginia could easily lose out and sit squarely on the bubble heading into the Big East Tournament.
That's why Bryant's continued success is so important.
"That was Truck's best game in a long time," said WVU head coach Bob Huggins. "Not only did he make shots, but his decision making was better."
If he's hitting shots and not making mistakes, WVU looks much more like an NCAA Tournament team than it did in previous losses.
He just has to be more consistent.