WVU, behind Bryant’s 24 points, finds its shot in 72-58 upset of No. 8 Irish
Published: Sunday, February 20, 2011
Updated: Sunday, February 20, 2011 22:02
West Virginia didn't need any luck Saturday against No. 8 Notre Dame.
The Mountaineers just needed to make some shots.
"If we're scoring the way we did today, we're almost an unbeatable team," said point guard Truck Bryant, who had a game-high 24 points. "Hopefully, this is the win that will put us on track and help us to win some more games."
WVU (17-9, 8-6 Big East Conference) shot nearly 54 percent against ND (21-5, 10-4) in the second half after a dismal 28.6 percent first half, which allowed the Mountaineers to build a lead as big as 15 points. That lead never dropped to less than 10 points in the last eight minutes in WVU's 72-58 victory over the Fighting Irish on Saturday.
The Mountaineers were led by its duo of starting guards – senior Joe Mazzulla and Bryant – who combined for 40 points, seven assists and seven rebounds in the victory. Junior forward Kevin Jones added a double-double performance with 14 points and 10 rebounds.
Mazzulla, with his driving ability, and Bryant, with his pin-point outside shot, caught the Irish off-guard all afternoon.
So did the Mountaineers' shooting.
"West Virginia was really ready to play," said Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey. "They hit some big shots. Guys hit big threes at key times to make us never feel we could close the gap. They were really good today."
The Mountaineers ended a stint of three losses in four games with the victory over the Irish. With the victory, WVU jumps up to eighth place in the Big East (tied with Cincinnati and Connecticut) and likely secured a spot in the NCAA Tournament. West Virginia ended the Irish's seven-game winning streak and likely any chance of catching Pittsburgh for the regular season conference crown.
"I thought we played with a lot of enthusiasm throughout the whole game," said WVU head coach Bob Huggins. "That is probably as hard as we have played … for 40 minutes. Everyone we put in played hard."
Bryant sparked West Virginia in the second half. That's when he scored 20 of his 24 points.
With Notre Dame enjoying a three point lead with 18 minutes to play, Bryant hit two 3-pointers in less than a minute to give the Mountaineers the lead for good.
It was the first time since Jan. 13 that Bryant hit more than one 3-pointer in the game. He would add two more later in the second half for good measure.
"It's a huge sigh of relief. I hadn't been playing well at all, and I haven't been helping my team out," Bryant said. "I'm just happy to come out and make some shots and get this win."
The Mountaineers seemed to be sparked defensively in the second half by a scrum under the hoop following a missed layup by Mazzulla. Huggins was called for a technical foul, which sent the crowd in an uproar.
Following Notre Dame foul shots, the Mountaineers went on a 7-0 run, finished off by a 3-pointer from Bryant, to take their largest lead of the game at 15 and force Notre Dame to call a timeout.
From that point, the Mountaineers continued to make shots and finished off the win with what Huggins called the team's best all-around effort since an upset on Purdue on Jan. 16. WVU was able to withstand multiple tough jumpers by the Irish in the second half with clutch shots itself.
"If there's one thing about Huggs, he never gets an unnecessary technical," Mazzulla said. "We fed off of that, and we were able to sustain that."
WVU held Notre Dame to 35 percent shooting, including just 8-of-27 from the 3-point line, and to just 31 points in the second half. The Mountaineers were able to force ND's leading scorer, Ben Hansbrough, to the bench late in the second half. He fouled out with 2:28 to play and finished with a team-high 19 points.
Notre Dame forward Carleton Scott finished with 11 points and 11 rebounds.
The Mountaineers found a way to win in front of nearly 90 former players from all the way back to the 1950s.
They were introduced at halftime and spent the weekend in Morgantown.