Zags in charge
Gonzaga has little trouble handling West Virginia
This turned out to be a repeat of Gonzaga’s 77-54 beatdown of West Virginia in the NCAA tournament last March – and then some.
West Virginia’s first possession: Deniz Kilicli missed shot, offensive rebound, Jabarie Hinds missed 3-pointer, offensive rebound, Matt Humphrey missed 3-pointer. On and on it went with the Mountaineers misfiring and the Bulldogs leading by inconceivable scores: 17-2, 34-12 and 45-18 at the half.
No. 19 Gonzaga (2-0) went on to dominate the Mountaineers (0-1) for the second time in eight months, this time an 84-50 victory late Monday night in front of 6,000 at the McCarthey Athletic Center.
“It was a great performance by our guys,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “I was worried, especially having a man down inside (minus Kelly Olynyk) we might get exploited on the glass, but our guys fought and battled. I thought we took care of the ball against a team that pressures you all over the court. We shot 52 percent, which is a good thing.”
The Mountaineers finished the first half with 15 turnovers and just five field goals. They missed their first 10 3-point attempts before Terry Henderson connected with 4:25 left. They shot 21.7 percent from the field.
The Bulldogs weren’t exactly a model of offensive efficiency early, but they hit four 3-pointers in the first 7 minutes and made frequent trips to the free-throw line as WVU piled up 13 first-half fouls. The Zags’ lead swelled to 17-2 after Gary Bell Jr.’s 3-pointer and his transition layup following a Mountaineers turnover forced by David Stockton.
As the half wore on, Gonzaga found openings in West Virginia’s defense and capitalized with several easy baskets. The Bulldogs hiked their lead to 42-17 with a 15-5 run. The last four buckets in that spurt: layups by Mike Hart and Sam Dower and a pair layups by Przemek Karnowski.
Bell, who had 13 points at the break, drained a 3-pointer with 32 seconds left to give Gonzaga a 27-point lead at the half – and that was without a point from WCC Player of the Year candidate Elias Harris, sidelined for extended periods with two fouls.
“That’s the best he’s played all fall from a toughness point of view and he hit some big shots,” Few said. “Kevin (Pangos) and Elias were out and we needed somebody to step up and score.”
Gonzaga played long stretches of zone defense and WVU failed to generate anything from the outside and had few opportunities inside.
“We haven’t spent a whole lot of time in zone, but we needed to use it because of the foul trouble we were in and the guys did a nice job,” Few said.
The Mountaineers trimmed their turnovers in the second half, but still couldn’t find their shooting touch. They finished at 27 percent, 11.5 percent from beyond the arc.
Guy Landry Edi’s 3-pointer and driving layup and Bell’s 15-foot jumper extended Gonzaga’s lead to 31 with 6 minutes remaining.
Pangos and Bell combined for five 3-pointers, 28 points and seven assists. Edi had his second big night of the young season, finishing with 14 points and seven rebounds. Harris put up 11 second-half points and also had seven boards. Dower chipped in eight points and six rebounds.
The Bulldogs shot 52 percent from the field and 56.3 percent on 3-pointers, but struggled a bit at the free throw line (23 of 36, 63.9 percent).
Aaric Murray led WVU with 14 points.
Gonzaga entertains South Dakota on Sunday at 1.