Gonzaga Takes It To WVU

PITTSBURGH – West Virginia took a relatively short country road to get to an NCAA Tournament second-round game against Gonzaga.

The Mountaineers’ stay was even shorter.

The Zags beat West Virginia in every facet in a 77-54 dismantling Thursday night at CONSOL Energy Center.

Of particular concern for WVU was the way Gonzaga did it. By flexing its muscles.

“They came out tougher, more aggressive, more energized than we were,” said West Virginia’s Kevin Jones, who was held to 13 points and a season-low four rebounds.

Added guard Truck Bryant: “It’s never happened to us before. We just got out-toughed. That’s how it really was.”

Keying on Jones with a much taller lineup was part of the plan for the Zags. The other part, according to center Robert Sacre, was to “hit ’em.”

“Show that Gonzaga is not soft,” he said.

To that end, the Zags played the Mountaineers even on the boards at 31 apiece, limited WVU to 32 percent shooting and made 56 percent of their own shots in handing the Mountaineers their second-worst loss of the season, trailing only a 27-point beating administered by Notre Dame last month.

“They shoot 56 percent. That’s never happened (against one of his teams),” said West Virginia coach Bob Huggins, whose team wound up losing nine of its last 13 to finish at 19-14.

“That’s never, ever happened. No matter how well somebody played, it never happened. A lot of it is because we’re so inept offensively. They get breakouts. We throw the ball around, throw it to them. That adds to it.

“We haven’t made shots in a month. When we were playing better, we made some shots. Jabarie (Hinds) made some shots. Aaron Brown made some shots. Why worry about it if the guys aren’t going to make shots?”

Hinds and Aaron Brown combined for three points on 1 of 8 shooting.

Noticing that trend, Gonzaga basically left the Mountaineers alone on the perimeter and concentrated on making life miserable for Jones.

“They played a heckuva game on both ends of the floor,” Jones said. “They did a good job of helping down on me. My teammates weren’t able to hit open shots. That’s just been the story of our year this whole year.”

West Virginia, which made its fifth straight tournament appearance the first time it has put together a streak like that since 1960 was 3 of 17 from beyond the 3-point line (17.6 percent).

Gonzaga (26-6), which is in the tourney for the 14th straight year, led 40-22 at halftime, with West Virginia hitting only six field goals and missing seven free throws.

The Zags, meanwhile, made half of their field goal attempts and 6 of 10 3-point shots. Freshmen Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell Jr. each hit a pair as they combined for 25 first-half points.

Included was a 13-0 blitz that zapped more than 6 minutes off the clock and ran a 14-10 Gonzaga lead to 27-14. It only grew for there, as WVU played three-fourths of the game staring at a double-digit deficit.

“We had a lot of defensive breakdowns, first half and second half,” Bryant said. “Second half, the lead was just so deep, it was hard to even think you were down that much, especially for me and K.J., our last game here as Mountaineers.”

Sacre and Bell each had 14 to lead the Zags. Elias Harris added 10 and Pangos finished with 13.

Gary Browne, who was 10 of 11 from the free-throw line, led West Virginia with 15 points. Deniz Kilicli added 10.