Injuries, Issues Keep Playing Time in Flux

After opening the season on November 15th with a 83-60 victory over Loyola University of Maryland, head men's basketball Coach Bob Huggins had his fair share of obstacles to overcome during his team's nine-day break.

By the end of the Mountaineers' season opener, they were playing without veteran players like junior forward John Flowers, who went out of the Loyola game late in the first half with a foot injury. Flowers did not return to the bench for the second half. He did go to the hospital to get x-rays and was cleared, but the foot is still a problem.

"[Flowers] is practicing," said Huggins. "He is not 100 percent but he's been practicing."

Another player absent from the Mountaineer bench was sophomore forward Devin Ebanks. Ebanks missed the game due to "personal issues." Huggins says that there is no change on Ebanks' status and said that he doesn't know if the sophomore will play in the Mountaineers game against the Citadel on Tuesday or make the trip to Anaheim, Ca. for the 76 Classic tournament late next week.

Despite being dressed and on the bench in the season opener, Huggins is still being vague as to when redshirted junior point guard Joe Mazzulla will make his way back into the lineup and admitted that he didn't know if Mazzulla would see playing time in the team's next game.

"We're trying to be as careful as we can be with him," said Huggins.

Although the loss of the three crucial players has been tough on the team, Huggins welcomed the experience that it gave to newcomers like freshmen forward Danny Jennings and guard Dalton Pepper. Jennings stepped in for missing big men Ebanks and Flowers against Loyola and saw 16 minutes of playing time. Pepper was also in the rotation, earning six minutes on the floor.

"I think the positive is [that the younger guys are getting more minutes]," admitted Huggins. "Danny Jennings wouldn't have gotten the minutes that he got probably. We need to get [Dalton Pepper] some more minutes. I think this will afford us an opportunity to do that." Huggins admits that he and his team are anxious to return to the court when they travel to Charleston on Tuesday to play The Citadel. Although he is not pleased to have such a gap in between games, he recognizes that it is a sacrifice that the team had to make.

"I don't like it very much," said Huggins. "If we're going to play on T.V. we're going to have to wait until T.V. has windows. That's why we ended up with everything jammed toward the end of December." However, the head coach is looking forward to traveling to the Charleston Civic Center for their next game.

"I think we can touch the people in southern West Virginia a little better," said Huggins. "It's an easier trip for them. We have our fans in the southern part of the state that don't have the opportunity to get to Morgantown frequently. It's not in the season ticket package so they can buy tickets. I think it's a good thing."

The coming week will bring upon some challenges to the team as far as traveling. After their game in Charleston on Tuesday, they will travel to California on Wednesday and have no time off before playing Long Beach State on Thursday afternoon. They will play another game on Friday against either Texas A&M or Clemson before having Saturday off. The team will play in its final game of the tournament on Sunday.

"It's all what you make it," said Huggins. "It's not an ideal situation. We have to make do If we're going to play on T.V. and play in these kinds of things. I think it's important that we play in Charleston too. You do what you have to do."

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