The Times West Virginian

Bob Herzel

December 21, 2009

A pressing issue

Cleveland State defense exposes WVU weakness

MORGANTOWN — West Virginia’s basketball team is ranked No. 6 in the country.

It is also undefeated.

And it’s in trouble.

On Saturday, Cleveland State exposed the Mountaineers’ greatest weakness, which is ball handling, and may have written a blueprint to beating them.

The Vikings unleashed a relentless press on West Virginia and turned the ball over constantly, erasing a 17-point lead before falling by two points on a play that quite honestly just as easily could have gone the other way.

Rest assured the Mountaineers will see similar pressure the rest of the way, and they really may not be able to do anything about it.

One of the problems is that Joe Mazzulla’s injured left shoulder that underwent surgery last year is not yet healed and, in fact, may never be.

He’s been trying to play through pain but left in the first half on Saturday in obvious discomfort and spent the rest of the game on the bench with ice on the shoulder.

That takes away the Mountaineers’ best ball handler, maybe just for a brief amount of time, maybe forever.

“It doesn’t look good,” was all Bob Huggins would say after the game.

Here’s the dilemma. Huggins can’t get any scoring offense out of Mazzulla, if he can play, because he can’t take his arm above his shoulder. And, at crucial times in the game, he can’t use him for fear teams will foul him.

A natural left-hander, he’s converted to a right-handed free throw shooter but is not nearly as good as he was left-handed.

That means Darryl “Truck” Bryant has a lot of pressure on him and it also means that Huggins has got to use either freshman Dalton Pepper at guard, he being more of a shooter, or forwards Da’Sean Butler or Devin Ebanks. Each of them can handle the ball, but are miscast in the role, hurting the offense as it was pictured.

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Bob Herzel
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