SYRACUSE, N.Y. – West Virginia’s basketball team reminds some observers of the USC Trojans – except a lot more aggressive on defense.
That might seem like the No. 1 nightmare for the Washington Huskies, who lost both games to USC this season – one by 26 points.
However, Matthew Bryan-Amaning – the lone big man in Washington’s starting lineup – believes the Huskies might be able to use the Mountaineers’ aggressiveness against them.
“These guys move a lot to the ball, which means we will have more gaps for our big guys to go to work,” he said. “With USC sitting in the paint, it was harder for penetration and harder for myself, Tyreese (Breshers), Quincy (Pondexter) to make moves on the post. If this team is more aggressive it should spread the court out more, creating driving lanes and giving room for the big guys to go to work.”
West Virginia typically starts 6-foot-9 Devin Ebanks, 6-8 Kevin Jones, and 6-7 Wellington Smith and De’Sean Butler. With 6-2 point guard Darryl Bryant out with a broken foot, the Mountaineers could get even taller if coach Bob Huggins chooses to insert another forward instead of 6-2 reserve point guard Joe Mazzulla.
That means one WVU starter as big as Bryan-Amaning – UW’s tallest regular at 6-9 – and at least three others taller than any other UW starter.
“We’re still going to play the same way,” Bryan-Amaning said. “And with all those guys on the court that are around my height, we’ve got bodies: myself, Tyreese, Darnell (Gant), Quincy all playing inside. That’s going to help us, and I don’t think it’s going to be as much of a disadvantage as people might think it might be.”
Media covering West Virginia and around the country had a variety of questions for sophomore guard Isaiah Thomas of Tacoma.
Some of his responses:
On UW’s cross-country travel: “Sweet 16 – there’s no time for excuses. (West Virginia) traveled, even though they didn’t travel as far as us. We got that extra day in there (to get) used to the time difference and just get ready for (the game). It really isn’t going to factor into what we’re doing.”
On playing in the Carrier Dome, the same building where the Syracuse football team plays and where quarterback Jake Locker made his UW debut: “It’s big. The hoop is 10-feet (high) though, so it’ll be good. It’s the same hoop as back home, just the arena is big.”
On the story that he was named “Isaiah” Thomas because of a lost bet, and what he would have been named otherwise: “Magic,” he said, cracking up both reporters and himself. “No, no, I don’t know. I never asked my dad or mom that. I’ll ask them once they get here and let you know.”
UW coach Lorenzo Romar was asked how the Huskies would be able to dictate tempo in a game that the Mountaineers will probably want to slow down.
His answer: They probably can’t.
“If your five are just extremely talented and the other five aren’t as talented, you can impose your will,” he said. “But if that’s not the case, the team that wants to slow it down usually can get you to do that.”
Huggins builds his ‘house’
Romar was asked about the style of West Virginia coach Bob Huggins, a longtime friend.
“I was just explaining using this analogy to someone about Coach Huggins’ teams: Over the years, my mother lived in different homes, and I don’t care what the home looked like on the outside, eventually the inside looked exactly like the other houses. She decorated it the same way. You knew exactly what to look for in each house after a while.
“And I don’t care where Coach Huggins is, after a while his teams start to look the same way. And you can see this team is starting to look like the teams he had at Cincinnati: the long, athletic guys that just play extremely hard, are mentally tough and just come out and get after you.”
Huggins was asked later if he is building this WVU team to his ideal specifications.
“I wish I could do that,” he said. “I’ve never been in a place where we could select guys. We always just had to get the best guys we could and then work to their strengths.”
Pac-10 an issue
The respective conferences have been a media issue in each tournament game so far. And that was the case again Wednesday, as Big East reporters asked Romar if there is satisfaction in representing the Pacific-10 Conference here.
“There were a couple of unfortunate (Pac-10) losses in the non-conference schedule early that didn’t look very good for the league,” Romar said. “At the time some players were ineligible, some players were hurt. And once that happened, the Pac-10 kind of got labeled for the rest of the year: No need to look at them anymore, we know what they’re about.”
Don Ruiz, 253-597-8808