The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

November 5, 2010

WVU men to rely on veterans

MORGANTOWN — On the surface, one may question the wisdom of Bob Huggins deciding to play both his point guards — Joe Mazzulla and Truck Bryant — in the West Virginia University starting lineup for it goes away from the traditional strategy of the game.

Indeed, most basketball teams will go with a point, a shooting guard, a power forward, a small forward and a center, each with a designed role, but Huggins believes the way his team shakes down that having Mazzulla and Bryant on the floor together gives them the best chance to win.

“I like to have my five best players on the floor,” Huggins has said, and that means that it will be Mazzulla, Bryant, Kevin Jones, John Flowers and probably Deniz Kilicli at 7 p.m. Friday when the Mountaineers play their first of two exhibition games at the Coliseum against North Carolina-Pembroke.

“I’d like to see them there all the time, but I don’t think that’s possible,” Huggins continued. “We have to be careful we don’t get those two guys in foul trouble. At least before, we had Da’, but we don’t have Da’ any more.”

Da’, of course, is Da’Sean Butler, who led the Mountaineers to the Final Four before losing to Duke. He had the ability to play forward, the shooting guard or the point guard, a bar of gold in reserve for Huggins if his ball handlers got into foul trouble or if he had to play big.

Mazzulla is not really a scorer, although he has had some big games, while Bryant does like to shoot a bit more from the outside but the two do not figure to score as many points as if there were a true shooting guard there.

“I think we’ll get enough points because they know how to play,” Huggins said. “Whatever they lack in whatever, they make up for with their understanding of the offense or their understanding of how to play. They both have a pretty good grasp of how to play.

“It seems everyone wants to show you what they can’t do instead of showing you what they can do. Those two guys are past the point where you have to worry about them going out and trying to do a bunch of things they can’t do.”

The idea is that Huggins can count on them to do the right thing.

“You can have guys who can make shots, but after that all they do is run and get in someone else’s way. That’s not very productive.” Huggins said, showing a brief smile.

The thing is last year WVU lived off its defense and rebounding, not off its ability to put points up.

“I think if you look at us last year, offensively our stats didn’t look very good. But we probably were as good a defensive team as there was in our league and we were the best rebounding team in the league, especially the offensive rebounds,” Huggins noted.

There are some technical reasons why Huggins will be able to play Bryant and Mazzulla together most of the time.

He runs a motion offense and that negates most of what the point guard does.

“In the motion offense everyone is doing the same thing,” Bryant noted.

The point guard normally just brings the ball up and gets the team into the motion offense, then it’s a matter of moving and working off picks.

“You just need someone to bring the ball up the court and enter into the motion offense,” Mazzulla said.

Far more important is the fact that Huggins would like to run a lot more transition game this year and feels better suited to do that with a pair of ball handlers bringing the ball up the court, both capable of finding the open man or taking the ball to the basket.

“We have two people on the court who can get into things without Hugs ever having to say anything. We know how to defend. We know how to get back and stop the ball when we need a stop. Plus, Joe and I can create shots for each other and the other guys,” Bryant said.

E-mail Bob Hertzel at bhertzel@hotmail.com.

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