PITTSBURGH - When West Virginia's season ended with a thud here Thursday with a 77-54 loss to Gonzaga in the NCAA tournament, so did too the career of Kevin Jones.While the Zags were freely substituting reserves at the end, Jones stood on the opposition's top of the key. His hands were on his knees. Finally, he stood and walked slowly. He put his arm around his teammate and fellow senior, Truck Bryant, as time expired.And now he's walking into WVU's sunset as the school's fifth all-time leading scorer with 1,822 points, trailing only Jerry West, Rod Hundley, Da'Sean Butler and Wil Robinson."I thought, 'This is it,' " Jones said. "I couldn't imagine sharing it with a better friend and teammate than Truck.
"It's kind of a sad, emotional moment. But I have another career to concentrate on now."Jones finished with 1,048 rebounds, also fifth all-time at WVU. What he didn't have was one of the best exits. Still, the senior held his head high."I'm still proud of my teammates," Jones said. "How they fought all year. I'll have my memories."nn
West Virginia had a rather large contingent of followers here for the game. According to WVU deputy athletic director Mike Parsons, the school quickly sold its allotment of 550 tickets."Many more were bought on the secondary market," he said. "WVU fans used their corporate connections and friendships to get more than were purchased locally in advance.
Some tickets were released to the public shortly before 1 p.m. Thursday. It was estimated that 5,000 WVU fans were present.Parsons also said Thursday's contest won't be the last time the Mountaineers will play at the Consol Energy Center. Next season's away game with Duquesne will also be played in the arena.nn
When Southern Miss fell to Kansas State earlier Thursday, it was a game with many West Virginia connections. Southern Miss, of course, is a Conference USA member with Marshall, while K-State coach Frank Martin partly owes his head coaching job to Bob Huggins, who helped him land the job after departing for WVU.After the 70-64 K-State victory, the coaches of both teams had some interesting things to say.
The Wildcats, for instance, have become a popular bracket pool pick to defeat Syracuse now that Orange big man Fab Melo is out of the mix."Syracuse is awesome," Martin said. "It's not like this is the first time this has happened. They've won Big East games without Fab Melo. That team understands how to play with and without him."Fab becomes an unbelievable presence, but it's not like this is their first rodeo without Fab. They've had to go out and win hard games on the road against Big East teams. And Coach [Jim] Boeheim has won a million-27 games, or whatever. I think he knows what he's doing."Southern Miss coach Jim Eustachy, meanwhile, reflected on his trip back from a humbling ouster from coaching to playing in the tourney."They say when you start drinking, you stop maturing," Eustachy said. "So I was basically about an 18-year-old for a long time. And it's been a long, long time since I've had a drink."So very much appreciative of the situation. Very much more humbled. This is as special as it gets. You're talking about the Super Bowl. You talk about the World Series. I didn't appreciate it as much, you know? I really didn't. I didn't realize how fortunate I was. God has given me a second chance."
When Syracuse survived a scare from UNC-Asheville, No. 1 seeds in the tournament moved to 109-0 all-time against No. 16 seeds since 1985.Syracuse's Brandon Triche was asked if the Orange thought about being the first to lose."Not at all," he said. "Obviously we have some things we need to work on. I think our effort is going to be a lot better next game. It has to be and I know it's going to be."Asheville guard J.P. Primm, meanwhile, believed Syracuse should have been the first to go down."We're not satisfied," he said. "We came in the game to win. I personally felt like the better team didn't win tonight. That's my opinion."Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, email@example.com
or follow him at twitter.com/MitchVingle.