West Virginia listless in 77-54 loss to Gonzaga

West Virginia coach Bob Huggins has endured tougher losses than

the 77-54 whipping Gonzaga dealt the Mountaineers on Thursday

night.

He’s just not sure he’s had a more humbling one.

Dominated on both ends of the floor all night, West Virginia

hardly looked inspired by the decided home-court advantage at

Consol Energy Center. Listless nearly from the opening tip, the

Mountaineers were handed their worst tournament defeat in a quarter

century.

”I’ve never gotten beat like that,” Huggins said. ”We just

were never in the game. Shouldn’t say `never.’ Maybe a couple

times. But not very well. I don’t know. Have to figure it

out.”

Gonzaga gave Huggins the entire offseason to mull it over as the

youth-laden Bulldogs heeded senior center Robert Sacre’s advice on

how to play the bruising Mountaineers.

”Hit `em, is all you’ve got to say,” Sacre said. ”Hit `em, be

physical, let everything else work itself out. As long as you’re

physical, that’s all that matters. Show that Gonzaga’s not

soft.”

Done and done.

Sacre and Gary Bell Jr. scored 14 points apiece for

seventh-seeded Gonzaga (26-6), which will play Ohio State or Loyola

(Md.) in the third round on Saturday.

Kevin Pangos added 13 points and five assists, and the fight the

Bulldogs were expecting from the 10th-seeded Mountaineers (19-14)

never materialized. West Virginia shot 32 percent (16 of 49) from

the field and had no answer when Gonzaga went on a 13-0 run midway

through the first half to break it open.

”This is the worst defensive team I’ve ever had in 30 years,”

Huggins said. ”We don’t get the help, we don’t get the loose

balls. We don’t do the things we’ve done for years and years and

years.”

And the Bulldogs did.

Playing the versatile, brainy style that’s become the program’s

calling card during its 14-year NCAA tournament run, Gonzaga had

little trouble despite the hostile environment.

Coach Mark Few worried his inexperienced roster would have

trouble with the 2,200-mile journey from Spokane, Wash., and a

crowed heavily tilted toward the Mountaineers, a short 75-mile bus

trip from the arena.

Pangos wasted little time putting his coach’s fears – and his

own – to rest. The freshman hit his first shot in NCAA tournament

play and his second, a 3-pointer that gave Gonzaga the lead 90

seconds into the game. Bell added one of his own and Elias Harris

quickly followed.

”I had jitters going into it, I’ll be honest,” Pangos said.

”Once you get playing, it’s just the same game. It was easier.

Everyone brought it on the court. It was a lot of fun, playing with

the guys. Everyone did their part.”

Gary Browne led the Mountaineers with 15 points off the bench

and Kevin Jones scored 13 in his final game for West Virginia. The

defeat was WVU’s worst in the NCAA tournament since losing to

Maryland by 25 in 1984.

”(Gonzaga) came out tougher, more aggressive, more energized

than we were,” Jones said. ”You see the result of it. They were

the better team.”

On every inch of the floor.

Its offensive flow disrupted by Gonzaga’s in-your-jersey

defense, West Virginia failed to play with any rhythm on either

end. The Bulldogs bottled up Jones and were more than happy to let

forward Deniz Kilicli and senior guard Darryl ”Truck” Bryant try

to beat them.

No chance.

Bryant, playing in his sixth and final NCAA tournament game for

the Mountaineers, couldn’t get going. He missed all five of his

shots during a miserable first half and finished with nine points

on 2-of-10 shooting while getting badly outplayed by Pangos and

Bell.

”We just got out-toughed tonight,” Bryant said.

Kilicli included. The brutish center from Turkey said Wednesday

he didn’t think the Bulldogs would be ”prepared” to face a team

as physical as West Virginia.

Wrong.

Gonzaga was more than ready and proved it during the final 12

minutes of the first half when it blew the game open. An acrobatic

layup in traffic by Guy Landry Edi started a 13-0 burst that gave

the Bulldogs a 27-10 lead.

The Mountaineers missed eight straight shots during the stretch

and fell asleep on defense, a cardinal sin when you play for

Huggins. During one sequence, Aaron Brown clanked a 3-pointer and

then got caught watching – along with Bryant and Browne – as Edi

streaked behind them and collected a long pass from Pangos for a

dunk.

Huggins exploded out of his chair and called a timeout, but the

Bulldogs kept right on going, taking a 40-22 lead at the break to

cap a nearly flawless first half.

”We were getting open looks and we were just knocking them

down,” Bell said.

The only real miscue came from sophomore point guard David

Stockton, the son of Hall of Fame guard and Gonzaga alum John

Stockton. Though the younger Stockton knocked down a 3-pointer

during the game-turning run, he also airballed a free throw.

His father, sitting six rows behind the Gonzaga bench, stifled a

laugh as his son shook his head, one of the few mistakes the

Bulldogs made on a night they rolled into the round of 32.