Justin Moss was honored as the Mid-American player of the year Wednesday morning. A few hours later, UB's star forward was limping to the locker room after spraining his right ankle in practice at Alumni Arena.
Moss, who led the MAC in scoring and rebounding during the regular season, went down as he began a drive along the right baseline late in practice shortly before 3 p.m. The 6-7 junior lay on the floor for two or three minutes and pounded the floor in dismay. There was no contact on the play.
But UB coach Bobby Hurley said the injury was a mild sprain and he expects Moss to be ready when the Bulls play in the semifinals of the MAC Tournament at 9 p.m. Friday in Cleveland.
"I'm looking at it like it's a non-issue," Hurley said after practice. "He'll get treatment and I think he'll be fine. That's what I was told by our trainers."
Hurley was asked if the injury could be categorized as a mild sprain. Moss did not return to the floor for the last half hour of the team workout.
"Very," said Hurley, who cursed and squatted with his head in his hands while Moss was lying on the floor. "Mild. It looked worse, because Justin went down. But we have to be super conservative when something like that happens."
Hurley said he seemed distraught because any coach hopes to minimize the chance of an injury leading up to a conference tournament. UB has never made it to the NCAA Tournament and probably needs to win the MAC
title to get a bid, despite a high power rating.
"With not having to play any games until Friday, you hope each day that you get through the day and you get the work in that you need, and nothing happens," Hurley said
Moss averaged 18.3 points and 9.3 rebounds a game this season. The Detroit native averaged 3.8 points as a backup last season. He has scored in double figures in 27 of 30 games this year.
So when your top scorer and rebounder, the league's best player, goes down two days before the semifinals of the conference, it's an issue. At least Moss has two days to rest the ankle. The Bulls, the No. 2 seed, don't have to play until 9 p.m. Friday.
"Yeah," Hurley said. "He's got plenty of reps under his belt this year. I'm more concerned about getting him on the floor (Thursday) and letting him get some shooting and continue to have his feel right."