MORGANTOWN — West Virginia University’s bid for a national championship took a strange and bad turn Tuesday when it was announced that starting point guard Darryl “Truck” Bryant had broken a bone in his right foot during practice and would miss the rest of the season.
The Mountaineers play Washington in the Sweet 16 in Syracuse on Thursday. Joe Mazzulla will start at the point, and Da’Sean Butler will have to operate there more than he has when Mazzulla goes to the bench.
Bryant had been struggling lately as Mazzulla was coming on strong and getting most of the playing time.
According to a release put out by the school, Bryant suffered a broken fifth metatarsal in his right foot during Tuesday’s practice before the team left for Syracuse. The report did not state how the injury occurred.
The report of the injury was released faster than is normal when x-rays have to be taken and read.
“I feel sorry for Truck that this injury happened during this time of the season,” coach Bob Huggins was quoted as saying in the release.
Bryant, a sophomore from New York City, had been playing between 28 and 30 minutes a game until he went into a shooting slump late in the season. He closed the regular season hitting just 10 of final 39 shots and after hitting one of 10 in 28 minutes against Cincinnati as the Mountaineers just squeezed by the Bearcats in their first Big East Conference game, he saw his playing time cut dramatically.
He played just 16, 10, 22 and 16 minutes in the next four games as Mazzulla became more and more of a factor, his injured shoulder seemingly fully recovered.
On Tuesday, Bryant was on the court long before practice was scheduled to begin, shooting jump shots and showing no sign of any injury.
Bryant reached the height of his season in mid-February when he scored 15 points against Villanova, 20 against Pitt in a triple-overtime game and 14 at Providence, raising his season average to a season-high 11.0 points a game.
Since those three games, however, his average has plummeted steadily to 9.3 a game, and he has scored only 51 points in the next 10 games.
Mazzulla, on the other hand, has taken a big role in the post-season. The junior, a popular, hard-driving junior out of Rhode Island, has played 22 or more minutes over the last five games after having played more than 20 minutes only in the previous 13 games.
Mazzulla missed most of last season with his shoulder injury that required intricate surgery to repair a broken growth plate. He did not play much early in the season, unable to raise his left arm — he is left-handed — above his shoulder.
He shot free throws right-handed for a period and was playing mostly on guts and Advil.
Recently, however, he has been at full strength and been able to shoot and run the show, dishing out 15 assists against three turnovers in the past three games while playing his normal tough defense.
Mazzulla has 78 assists and only 33 turnovers this year.
E-mail Bob Hertzel at email@example.com.