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With 'Truck' in for repairs, Mazzulla ready to roll

SYRACUSE, N.Y. - A conversation between West Virginia coach Bob Huggins and junior point guard Joe Mazzulla prior to the Big East Tournament could ease Mazzulla's transition to the starting lineup following Tuesday's loss of sophomore Darryl "Truck'' Bryant with a broken foot.

Mazzulla will make his first start of the season tonight against Washington in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament at the Carrier Dome.

"I thought that at the start of the Big East Tournament, Joe was kind of settling for just being a role player for us," Huggins said. "And I had a conversation about him stepping up and playing the way that we expected him to play.''

Mazzulla, a reluctant shooter since undergoing surgery last season on his left (shooting) shoulder, has displayed steady progress of late.

In West Virginia's first two Tournament games, Bryant averaged 4 points and 2 assists in 19 minutes, while Mazzulla has averaged 4 points and 4 assists in 23 minutes.

For the season, Bryant averaged 9.3 points, 3.1 assists and 2.2 rebounds. He was second on the team in free throws, assists and 3-pointers.

Mazzulla will be assigned to defend Washington guard Isaiah Thomas, who averages 17.1 points and 3.1 assists.

"He's done nothing but lead the team when he has the ball in his hands,'' senior Da'Sean Butler said of Mazzulla. "And whoever you ask him to guard, he guards. He's having a great tournament as far as leading and guarding. I don't see why he wouldn't continue to do the same.''

DEFENDING THE PAC-10

Washington coach Lorenzo Romar is tired of defending the performances of Pac-10 teams this season. Washington and California were the only Pac-10 teams invited to the NCAA Tournrment. The Huskies received a No. 11 seed after defeating favored Cal in the championship game of the Pac-10 Tournament.

"The Pac-10 was a victim of much criticism all year,'' Romar said. "It's almost as if people stopped watching the Pac-10 because they had already made an assumption of where this league was.

"We played in this league, and we didn't go undefeated, and we're going to the Sweet 16. So the league was stronger than people gave it credit for.''

THIS AND THAT

• West Virginia senior Da'Sean Butler has scored 20 or more points in 17 of his 35 games this season.

• The Mountaineers have advanced to the Sweet 16 for the fourth time in the past six years (2005, 2006, 2008, 2010).

• WVU has held five consecutive opponents under 60 points.

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