PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) Darryl Bryant returned to form and so too did West Virginia.
Bryant scored 29 points as the Mountaineers easily defeated Rutgers 85-64 on Wednesday night for their seventh straight win in the series. .
Bryant shot just 3 of 16 in a loss to Seton Hall on Friday and his 11 points were six below his average of 17.2 points per game.
Against the Scarlet Knights the senior guard made 7 of 13 and 4 of 5 from 3-point range.
”I couldn’t get a look the other night,” Bryant said. ”I just had 34 against Villanova the game before, so they knew not to give me a look. Every open look I got, I didn’t make it.
”I think (the Seton Hall loss) was just a lack of focus by our whole team, and especially me coming out not ready to play. Tonight, we came out ready to play.”
Bryant, who had 16 points in the decisive first half, hopes he can start stringing together some solid efforts.
”Consistency (in scoring) is definitely something I’m striving for because that’s something my team needs me to do,” he said. ”If my team didn’t need it, I wouldn’t be striving for it, but they need me to score.”
Recovering from a sprained ankle in the second half against Seton Hall, Big East leading scorer and rebounder Kevin Jones had his 10th double-double of the season with 14 points and 14 rebounds for the Mountaineers (11-4, 2-1 Big East) in the win against Rutgers.
”We held him for two days which is kind of unusual for us, and he went yesterday,” West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said. ”I thought he was fine. He made some big shots for us on the baseline.”
Deniz Kilicli added 16 points, and Jabarie Hinds and Aaron Brown had 11 each as West Virginia shot 25-for-44 (56.8 percent) and made 7 of 13 from 3-point range.
Eli Carter had 19 and Jerome Seagears added 10 for the Scarlet Knights (8-7, 0-2), who lost their second straight since upsetting then-No. 10 Florida.
When asked how far off the Florida win felt, Rutgers coach Mike Rice had a one-word reply.
With the game tied at 13-13, the Mountaineers scored nine straight en route to a 15-1 run that opened a 28-14 advantage. West Virginia never led by less than double figures after that and its largest lead was 51-24.
In a half that featured a combined 30 fouls and 41 free throws by both teams, Rutgers impeded itself by making just 12 of 23 (35.3 percent) from the foul line.
”With the game tied at 13, we missed four or five open layups that kind of deflated us, and we certainly showed we have a glass jaw when they started making Big East plays,” Rice said. ”You can’t miss that many free throws and expect to stay in a game. You have to find ways to stay in a game when things aren’t going your way. Tonight was ugly across the board.”
West Virginia’s 51-26 halftime advantage marked its highest first-half points total this year. It was also the most points allowed by Rutgers in a half this season and the Scarlet Knights’ largest halftime deficit.
Rutgers tried to make a run by scoring the first 10 points after intermission but never got the deficit below 15.
”I thought our effort was a lot better than the other day,” Huggins said. ”Obviously we had a letdown at the beginning of the second half. We lost a little aggression at the defensive end and especially the offensive end.”
Hinds hit a 3-pointer to stop Rutgers’ run, Huggins switched to a 2-3 zone and the Knights began misfiring on 3-point attempts as West Virginia maintained control.
”We lost focus at the start of the second half,” Bryant said. ”But we picked it up again at the 15-minute mark.”