SYRACUSE. N.Y. —
West Virginia and Washington square off this evening in the first round of the NCAA East Regional in a game that is being advertised as a battle of wills.
More likely, it is a battle of won’ts.
If West Virginia won’t let Washington run, the Huskies won’t win.
If West Virginia won’t allow Washington to score 70 points, the Huskies won’t win.
If the Washington won’t let West Virginia slow the game down, West Virginia won’t win.
And, to be honest, it is as simple as that.
Yes, there are Xs and Os involved, to be sure, but the truth of the matter is that pace makes the race and in this race if Washington won’t be slowed down by a WVU defense that has found a way to turn teams that play like Indianapolis 500 race cars into amusement park bumper cars all season, the Mountaineers will be watching the Regional final on television from Morgantown.
Washington averages almost 80 points a game. West Virginia almost never scores 80 points in a game.
What’s more, WVU starting point guard Truck Bryant, who had been slumping badly lately but who is capable of putting up numbers, is out for the rest of the year with a broken fifth metatarsal bone in his right foot.
“I didn’t take it seriously,” Bryant said Wednesday. “I switched shoes at halftime during the Missouri game, when I started to notice my foot was hurting. Yesterday, I just backed up. I didn’t even make movement, really, and backpedaled and I felt my foot pop.”
That puts a huge burden on Joe Mazzulla, who is known more for his defense than offense but who actually is slicker at setting up scores than is Bryant and who may make the offense more efficient than it has been.