Injuries have played a role in this NCAA Tournament unlike any before.
The teams affected by the bug went 1-1 in Thursday night's early games.
West Virginia lost starting point guard Darryl "Truck" Bryant when he broke his foot in practice Tuesday. Junior college transfer Casey Mitchell started in Bryant's place, but it was redshirt junior Joe Mazzulla who played the most significant minutes there, finishing with three points, three assists and three steals.
Despite committing four of the Mountaineers' season-high 23 turnovers, Mazzulla was a steadying force with the ball and the team's energy leader as well, spending quite a bit of time on the court after fighting through a screen or drawing an offensive foul.
"It was great to have Joe in the game playing the way he was playing today," West Virginia's Da'Sean Butler said. "That just helped us out."
Syracuse played its third game without center Arinze Onuaku, who injured his knee in the Big East tournament and has not practiced since.
Playing without the man in the middle of the Orange's 2-3 zone defense left coach Jim Boeheim short-handed against the Bulldogs.
Today, Michigan State, missing Kalin Lucas, the 2008-09 Big Ten Player of the Year, and with 3-point specialist Chris Allen limited by a sore foot, will face Northern Iowa. Purdue, still trying to recover from the loss of second-leading scorer and rebounder Robbie Hummel to a knee injury, will play Duke.
ZONED OUT: Butler was ready for Syracuse's zone defense, even if the Bulldogs' 6-of-24 effort from 3-point range didn't make it look that way.
"Well, we knew they were going to obviously play the zone. So when we got back to Indy, I saw a lot of shots before practice, stayed after, shot after practice," Butler guard Ronald Nored said. "Then in practice, I was more focused on my shots." Especially the one that gave brought the Bulldogs within 54-53 with 3:13 left and ended a scoring drought of almost 8 minutes.
Nored said the shooting percentage didn't matter as long as Butler played defense.
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