No Changes In Store

While West Virginia is without starting point guard Truck Bryant for Thursday's East regional semifinal against Washington, Huskies head coach Lorenzo Romar and his players said they don't expect much to change from the Mountaineers.

UW point guard Isaiah Thomas, who played against Bryant in AAU competition, said the absence of Bryant wouldn't change his approach to the first of two Thursday games at the Carrier Dome.

"As an individual, I'm going to play my game and make plays for my team," said Thomas, who is of no relation to the former NBA all-star (though, according to the Huskies' media guide, he was named after the former Pistons guard after his father lost a "friendly wager" on a Lakers-Pistons playoff game in 1989).

"But as a team, we're going to play the same way that our game plan is. I mean, it's bad that he's out for West Virginia, but we're trying to win a ballgame. So we're going to do whatever we can to win this game."

In studying WVU game film, Romar said he recognized the same trend many Mountaineer fans had seen -- Bryant's role had been a bit diminished in recent games, as Joe Mazzulla's playing time steadily increased.

"I don't know if there's going to be an adjustment [in our game plan knowing Bryant won't be in the line-up]," said Romar. "Mazzulla has played for them and played quality minutes in the past. I know he was injured last year, but he seems like a guy that the team has a lot of confidence and faith in."

"I do know that between [Devin] Ebanks, [Da'Sean] Butler and [Kevin] Jones, they are pretty good. Those guys are still playing, and they're going to be pretty effective."

But UW's players and coaches couldn't entirely ignore the fact that the loss of Bryant, a sophomore, left their opposition perilously thin in terms of depth, particularly at the point guard spot.

West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins even went as far as to say he didn't know if he would insert Mazzulla as a starter or go to a line-up featuring five forwards that was used earlier in the season when Bryant was unable to play.

But the Huskies (26-9) plan to test their opposition's endurance with their fast-paced, up-and-down style, regardless of who ends up on the floor.

"We don't know how much depth they have, so we'll try to wear them down," said UW guard Venoy Overton. "Maybe we'll take advantage of that at the end, when we can bring in some of our guards off the bench."

Of course, the Mountaineers' opponent in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, Missouri, similarly hoped to push the tempo, force Mountaineer turnovers and get easy baskets as a result.

Those efforts were largely thwarted by Huggins and company, as the slow-down style of their attack limited the Tigers to only 10 takeaways in WVU's 68-59 win.

But Washington has had more success playing multiple styles than many perceive. Currently in the midst of a nine-game winning streak, Romar's squad has scored 79 or more points in seven of those victories.

But it was held under 60 on two other occasions (at Washington State and against Oregon State in the Pac-10 Tournament) and came away with wins both times.

"We're going to play the way we play, and if the game is in a half-court situation, we have to be able to perform," said Romar, who has Washington in the Sweet Sixteen for the third time in his eight seasons as the head man in Seattle (the Huskies come in to Thursday's game 0-4 all-time in regional semifinal games under the current format).

"Half our league slows it down. So whether we're going to be effective or not, again, it remains to be seen. But we have been in many games where the pace was slowed."

Huskies players and coaches also didn't make much of any talk about "jet lag" effecting them after making the trek from the Pacific coast all the way to upstate New York.

Given a couple of days to adjust to the three-hour time difference from their Seattle homes, Thomas said players shouldn't have any issues with fatigue on Thursday night.

"What time is [tip-off], 7:30?" asked Thomas. "That's 4:30 back home. It's the Sweet 16. There's no time for excuses. [West Virginia] traveled, even though they didn't travel as far as us."

"We're here now. We got that extra day in, and we are getting used to the time difference and just getting ready for tomorrow. It really isn't going to factor into what we're doing."

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