The Kentucky-West Virginia game Saturday is a rematch of last year’s East Regional final in name only.
The rosters don’t have any of the essential players from the Mountaineers’ 73-66 win.John Wall, gone. De’Sean Butler, gone. DeMarcus Cousins, Devin Ebanks, Patrick Patterson, Wellington Smith, Eric Bledsoe, all gone.
“It’s like they have a completely different team. I’m not sure they have that inside presence that they had from Cousins, even though Josh Harrellson does a pretty good job,” said West Virginia point guard Joe Mazzulla, one of the few holdovers.
“On our end, we’re a much different team. We kind of spread the load out as far as what we’re going to do offensively, and we really have to rely on defense and rebounding. So, I don’t really think it’s too much of a rematch.”
Different styles of play couldn’t be more true. When the Wildcats missed 24 of 28 shots from beyond the arc, it ended their season. This year, their 3-point shooting is one of their biggest strengths. That’s what 5-seed West Virginia (21-11) will focus on.
“A lot of their shots were contested, under duress from the 1-3-1. We got them off of the 3-point line and probably a few steps back,” Mazzulla said.
“That’s just what we’ve got to do (Saturday). We can’t let them get standstill shots and we can’t let them set their feet. If we can make them rush their 3-pointers, and if we can get a hand in their face, then hopefully it’ll be the same result.”
And Kentucky? The 4-seed Wildcats (26-8) will be focused on more consistent play so they can avoid another close game like Thursday’s 59-57 win over Princeton.
Also, they’re pumped for coach John Calipari, who’s just 1-8 vs. West Virginia’s Bob Huggins. “We’ll try to help Cal’s record,” freshman Doron Lamb told the Lexington Herald-Leader.
Tip-off is 12:15 p.m. ET.
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