MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- There was bound to be a period of adjustment for West Virginia's basketball team during Casey Mitchell's three-game suspension ... and then again when the shooting guard returned.
Sure enough, the Mountaineers had misfiring moments during Mitchell's absence, with point guard Joe Mazzulla in the starting spot. Even upon Mitchell's return, WVU couldn't get Mazzulla and Truck Bryant, the team's other starting guard, going at once.
"They can't be more productive unless they're making shots," said Coach Bob Huggins, whose club plays Thursday night at No. 4 Pitt. "Joe's good at driving the ball to the goal, but unless we're making perimeter shots to get people spread out, he's got nowhere to go.
"The more shots we make, the more people have to come at us, which opens things up."
Part of that tandem's trouble was due in part to Bryant's extended shooting slump, but Mitchell's suspension and Mazzulla's escalation were possible solutions. If Mazzulla could get to the basket, then Bryant might have better looks and less attention from the defense.
Mazzulla was 8-for-10 in the first half of his first start without Mitchell and got to the basket almost at will against Louisville.
He took and missed two shots in the second half as the Cardinals sagged on defense to guard the lane - and the Mountaineers did nothing on the perimeter to discourage that tactic.
Mazzulla would score 16 points in the next game against Cincinnati, but needed 10 free throws to get there. He scored four points in the third game. Bryant totaled 11 points and two baskets in those two games.
Mitchell returned against Villanova and Mazzulla didn't score and the juggling began all over again. In the first six starts together, Mazzulla and Bryant scored in double figures just once, when they combined for 23 points against DePaul.
On Saturday, though, Mazzulla and Bryant started together for a seventh time and totaled 40 points in a victory against then-No. 8 Notre Dame.
Mazzulla made two layups and a rare 3-pointer in the first half for nine of his 16 points. Bryant then made four 3-pointers in the second half and scored 20 of his 24 points.
The second half started with a Mazzulla layup, and he assisted Bryant on threes on the next two possessions, one after a basket when he drove and passed and one in transition when Mazzulla was threatening the paint.