TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -No. 10 West Virginia overcame a lethargic start with stellar defense.
Trailing by 11 points, and seemingly have no answer for containing Dominique Jones, the Mountaineers called on reserve Joe Mazzulla to slow down South Florida's one-man show in a 69-50 victory on Wednesday night.
Devin Ebanks scored 15 of 17 points in the second half and Darryl Bryant had 13 of his 15 before the break, when West Virginia (13-2, 4-1 Big East) erased its double-digit deficit with Mazzulla on the floor.
Jones led USF (10-6, 0-4) with 28 points but was held without a field goal for the first 11 miuntes of the second half. None of his teammates were able to take up the slack, and the Mountaineers gradually pulled away.
``He's really a good player, and he's really hard for one guy to guard,' West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said of Jones, who has averaged 23 points in four career games against the Mountaineers.
``We talked for two days about we have to gang guard him. ... When Joe went in, he did a better job on the ball, and we did a better job of helping.'
The Mountainers limited USF to two field goals in the first 14 minutes of the second half. The Bulls missed 26 of 31 shots from the field and were 0-for-14 on 3-point attempts after the break.
``It's too good of a league to try to beat people of this caliber with one player,' South Florida coach Stan Heath said. ``The bets recipe is to have multiple players in double figures. ... Lately that hasn't happened.'
Jarrid Famous, Chris Howard and Mike Mercer scored six apiece for USF.
Jones, who had 19 in the opening half, called out his cold-shooting teammates. The Bulls finished 1-of-17 on 3-pointers and shot 32.7 percent overall.
``If it's putting pressure on my teammates, then that's just what I've got to do,' the Bulls' leading scorer said.
``In the gym tomorrow, I'm going to question everybody. Somebody's got to step up. Somebody's got to hit shots because we can't go the whole year with just me the only person that's an offensive threat.'
USF built an early 23-12 lead, making 10 of its first 14 shots before West Virginia finished the opening half on a 20-7 run that put the Mountaineers up 32-30 at the break. Bryant led the surge, making a pair of 3-pointers during an 11-0 spurt that gave West Virginia its first lead of the game.
Jones, coming off a 30-point performance in a 17-point loss at Syracuse, was 5-for-5 while the Bulls were building their and had 19 points - his season average - at the half on 7-for-10 shooting.
West Virginia rebounded from a 70-68 road loss to Notre Dame, pulling away in the opening minutes of the second half with Ebanks scoring eight in a 16-2 surge that enabled the Mountaineers to open a 46-32 lead with 14 minutes to go.
``Devin is a guy who understands how to play, and he really plays well out of the flow of the game,' Huggins said. ``When he tries to force things or tries to make things happen out of the flow of the game, he's not very effective.'
South Florida fell to 9-82 all-time against ranked opponents, including 3-20 since joining the Big East.
Jones missed his first three shots after halftime. By the time he made a pair of free throws with 10:49 remaining, the Bulls trailed by 17 and had only managed to score once from the field during a 12-minute stretch that began late in the first half.
``We did in the second half what we were supposed to do the whole game,' Huggins said.
Da'Sean Butler had 12 points and nine rebounds for West Virginia. Ebanks finished with 11 rebounds.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved