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Gonzaga blows by WVU to third round

By Wes Crosby
On March 15, 2012

  • Gonzaga's Robert Sacre shoots over West Virginia's Deniz Kilicli (13) in the second half of an NCAA tournament second-round college basketball game on Thursday, March 15, 2012, in Pittsburgh. Gonzaga won 77-54 to advance to the next round. AP Photo


In the third game at Consol Energy Center, Gonzaga dismantled West Virginia 77-54 in front of a crowd mostly decked in blue and gold.

West Virginia was outplayed on both ends as they allowed the Bulldogs to shoot 56 percent from the field while only managing to shoot 33 percent. The loss was West Virginia's most-lopsided defeat in the NCAA Tournament during the Bob Huggins era.

The game was close through the first eight minutes, but would quickly get out of hand when Gonzaga, already up four, went on a 13-0, three-minute run capped with a three-pointer by Kevin Pangos mid-way through the first half to gain a 27-10 advantage. The Zags would never look back.

The Mountaineers have uncharacteristically struggled on defense all season, allowing an average of 66 points per game.

West Virginia's Kevin Jones was frustrated with how the team played on both ends.

"It was definitely desperation during the second half," Jones said. "We were down by so many points. We weren't playing defense. They came out tougher, more aggressive, more energized than we were."

West Virginia's toughness has been its mantra since Huggins became its coach, but it seemed to lose part of that intensity this season.

 "In all my years here, this had to have been the roughest year to think about getting out-toughed," Darryl Bryant said. "It's never happened to us before."

Jones finished second on the team with 13 points Thursday night and Huggins said at a certain point the game became Jones or bust.

"There was going to come a point in time where they were going to double-team K.J. and not let him get to the glass," Huggins said. "Quite frankly, he's carried us."

Gonzaga coach Mark Few said he made it a point to emphasize the importance of matching West Virginia's toughness. They were able to match the larger-Mountaineers on the boards, both racking up 31, and earned 12 second-chance points.

"It started and ended with rebounding," Few said. "They're a phenomenal offensive rebounding team and we did a great job of keeping them off that pretty much all night."

Senior center Robert Sacre said he wanted the team to show they could outmuscle a team perceived to be more durable than Gonzaga.

"As long as you're physical, that's all that matters," Sacre said. "Show that Gonzaga's not soft."

West Virginia's lapse in defense allowed four Bulldogs to finish in double-figures, led by Sacre and Gary Bell, Jr., at 14. Freshman Kevin Pangos also had an exceptional game, shooting 5-7 for 13 points.

Pangos said he was nervous before the tip, but his jitters were dispelled quickly.

"Once you get playing, it's just the same game," Pangos said. "Everyone bought it on the court. It was a lot of fun, playing with the guys."

Few looked onto the Zags' matchup against another physical team in Ohio State. The Buckeyes give up only 59 points per game and allow opponents to shoot for a 40 percent average.

"[Ohio State] sticks to their core principles. They always play phenomenal defense, take pretty good care of the basketball," Few said. "They're a typical Big Ten team."

Ohio State beat Loyola (Md.) 78-59.

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