Injuries hamper WVU at MSG

December, 10, 2008
NEW YORK -- West Virginia coach Bob Huggins didn't mince words regarding the loss to Davidson: Had the Mountaineers had injured guards Alex Ruoff and Joe Mazzulla they would have won Tuesday night in the Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden.

Instead, after Davidson superstar Stephen Curry made two crushing late 3s, the Mountaineers lost by three.

West Virginia's best win so far was at Ole Miss by two. The Mountaineers lost to Kentucky in the Las Vegas Invitational title game over Thanksgiving weekend. The Mountaineers still have to play at Ohio State on Dec. 27 before Big East play begins.

"How far do we have to go? We're pretty damn good with [Ruoff and Mazzulla]," Huggins said. Ruoff and Mazzulla are out with a back injury and a shoulder injury, respectively. Huggins had no idea how long the two would be out. Ruoff didn't play. Mazzulla tried to go and played six minutes.

"I don't know," Huggins said. "I used to try to be a doctor, but I've given up. I hate to lose. We shoot 33 percent from the field, make four 3s."

Huggins said the Mountaineers' length did bother Curry (27 points on 27 shots), but "he makes two incredible shots, and if he misses one of those, we win the game. If he misses the first one [which cut the lead to 62-61], then we for sure win the game."

The key for the Mountaineers will be how soon freshmen Devin Ebanks and Darryl Bryant get what Huggins wants. They're getting close. Ebanks had 17 rebounds against Cleveland State. He grabbed 17 against Davidson. Bryant was a jet, blowing by Davidson defenders, but still needs to finish and decide when to use his speed.

"These guys are really skilled, very smart; it's just a matter of time before they do it on the court," West Virginia junior forward Da'Sean Butler said. "We just need [Bryant] to change speeds at the right time. He's working on it, but has to get us into the halfcourt and slow down. Ebanks, honestly, we knew what he could do, it's just a matter of him showing it. It's early in the season still. They'll pick it up real soon."

• Villanova coach Jay Wright said after the Wildcats' 67-58 loss to Texas that before beginning Big East play, the Wildcats must rebound the ball better (especially the guards), take care of the basketball and become even more selective with their shots.

Wright said Villanova wasn't ready for a game against a team like Texas a few weeks ago when Dwayne Anderson and Shane Clark weren't healthy. So he's not apologizing for the weaker nonconference schedule leading into this game. The Wildcats rode into the Texas game with an 8-0 record, with the best win probably the one against Rhode Island at the Palestra.

The schedule doesn't pick up much over the next two weeks. Villanova plays three Big Five games, and those are always tough, grinding games, but Saint Joseph's, LaSalle and Temple aren't even close to the caliber of Texas.

Wright said he didn't make much of the No. 12 ranking.

"I told them there may be 30 teams better than us, but there could be teams ahead of us that we're better than, too," Wright said.

• Two members of the NCAA tournament selection committee were on hand: chairman and SEC commissioner Mike Slive and UConn athletic director Jeff Hathaway.

• Texas and North Carolina are trying to work out a home-and-home agreement for 2009-10 and beyond. One plan is to play neutral site games at the new Cowboys stadium in North Dallas and the other in Greensboro. The two teams could also do a straight home-and-home, too. One thing Texas won't do is a neutral-site game in North Texas and then a true road game in Chapel Hill. Texas and North Carolina are two elite programs that don't hide from playing true road games. Carolina has already played at UC Santa Barbara and will play at Nevada on New Year's Eve.

• The four hosts for the 2009-10 NIT Season Tip-Off will be Duke, Connecticut, LSU and Arizona State.

Andy Katz | email

ESPN Senior Writer



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