Long-time friends become NCAA foes

WVU's Darryl Bryant played in the same AAU program as Kentucky's Doron Lamb

TAMPA – Consider it a case of virtual sibling rivalry.

West Virginia guard Darryl "Truck" Bryant and Kentucky guard Doron Lamb played for the same New York Gauchos AAU program. The childhood friends could end up guarding each other Saturday at the St. Pete Times Forum with an East Regional Sweet 16 berth at stake

"That's like my little brother," Bryant said Friday. "I speak to him sometimes, but tomorrow it's game time. I'm not talking tomorrow."

Bryant, a senior, played on an AAU team that featured Connecticut star Kemba Walker and Seton Hall guard Jordan Theodore. Lamb, a freshman, played on a Gauchos team that featured players his age.

"I've known Truck since I was 12 years old," Lamb said. "We played in the same AAU program. I played against him in high school, when I went to high school in New York. I know his family very well. I know he's a great player and a great kid."

Lamb could play a key role in determining whether Kentucky (26-8) avenges its 73-66 loss to West Virginia in last season's East Regional final. Kentucky missed its first 20 shots from 3-point range that day and finished 4-of-32 from beyond the arc against West Virginia's 1-3-1 zone.

Terrence Jones, Brandon Knight and Doron Lamb watched that game together from the McDonald's All-American Game festivities in Columbus, Ohio. All three would go on to sign with Kentucky. One year later, the freshman trio must solve the 1-3-1 riddle that flummoxed a Kentucky team that featured five first-round picks.

"We saw how they were struggling to shoot jump shots," Lamb said. "We hope tomorrow we'll do better than they did last year."

Kentucky's 3-point shooting percentage has improved from 33.1 percent last season to 39.8 percent this season. Lamb has led the way by hitting 47.2 percent (60-for-127) of his 3-pointers.

West Virginia went into the tournament ranked fourth nationally in 3-point percentage defense. The Mountaineers (21-11) have limited opponents to just 28.9 percent from long range.

Instead of trying to beat the Mountaineers, Lamb could have joined them. Lamb made an unofficial recruiting visit to West Virginia, with Bryant serving as his host. Now one will try to end the other's season.

"My mom and his mom will probably sit right next to each other," Bryant said. "I'll have to tell them not to because tomorrow, it's on."