West Virginia doesn't seem worried about change to starting lineup
West Virginia will be without starting point guard Darryl Bryant in its Sweet 16 matchup against Washington, but that doesn't seem to bother the Mountaineers.
Seattle Times staff reporter
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SYRACUSE, N.Y. — West Virginia coach Bob Huggins implied there's a chance he'll start five forwards in Thursday's East Regional semifinals against Washington.
He also said if junior point guard Joe Mazzulla replaces injured Darryl "Truck" Bryant, then he might play the entire game.
"I don't know if he can go 40 (minutes), but I think he can go 35," Huggins said. "We're still trying to figure out which is the best direction to go."
Losing your starting point guard two days before a Sweet 16 matchup might unnerve some teams, but the Mountaineers gave the impression they're not bothered about the changes in the lineup.
"I don't see where the whole panic about everything will be," said Da'Sean Butler, WVU's All-Big East forward. "I think we'll be fine."
The Mountaineers played four games without Bryant early in the season and Huggins inserted junior John Flowers into an all-forward lineup. WVU went 3-1 during the span.
At Wednesday's open practice at the Carrier Dome, Mazzulla worked with the starting unit, but the Mountaineers held a private workout later in the day that was closed to the media.
"My role doesn't really change," Mazzulla said. "Obviously I have to play a little bit smarter to try to stay out of foul trouble."
Meanwhile the Huskies are loaded with guards, including All-Pac-10 performer Isaiah Thomas and Venoy Overton, an all-conference defender.
"I feel sorry for (Bryant)," Thomas said. "He's a friend of mine and I know he wants to be out there playing, but this is basketball. It happens."
Bryant, a 6-foot-2 sophomore, complained of pain in his right foot for a couple of days. During Tuesday's practice, he fell to the floor and X-rays revealed a broken fifth metatarsal.
He started 31 of 35 games this season while averaging 9.3 points, 3.1 assists and 2.2 rebounds.
Mazzulla has never started in three seasons and averages 2.2 points, 2.3 assists and 1.8 rebounds this season.
"It definitely hurts losing Truck, losing our starting point guard and fourth-leading scorer," WVU forward Devin Banks said. "We are definitely going to miss him. We have to pick up the psyche of the team.
"That's why we've been ranked so high during the season, just because of our depth. We still have players on the team that can contribute."
The Huskies believe two days on the East Coast will help them recover from jet lag after Tuesday's five-hour trip to Syracuse. "I'll admit, I stayed up late last night because I couldn't sleep," junior Justin Holiday said. "That's about the only thing that's off."
Washington practiced twice Wednesday. They held an open workout at noon and practiced hours later on campus in a closed practice.
The Mountaineers, who played last week in nearby Buffalo and arrived Tuesday from Morgantown, W.Va., had an easier travel schedule than the Huskies.
"There's no time for excuses," Thomas said.
The Huskies had no problems adjusting to the sightlines inside the cavernous Carrier Dome.
"It felt like I was shooting outside at a park, but other than that it wasn't that big a deal," Elston Turner said. "Nothing is really different. It's the same size hoop and same size basketball."
"Actually, I shot the ball better today than I had in awhile," Holiday said.
Redshirt freshman forward Tyreese Breshers said three games against Oregon State's 1-3-1 zone defense has prepared Washington for WVU's zone.
"OSU is better at it, but West Virginia is still good," he said. "That's not their primary defense, though. But if they go to (the zone), we should be ready because OSU is the template for it."
Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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