WVU goes cold in Consol
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They were just miles from Morgantown, W.Va., with a supportive blue-and-gold-clad crowd, yet they never felt at home.
Tenth-seeded West Virginia was "out-toughed" and went more than eight minutes without making a basket in Thursday's 77-54 loss to No. 7 Gonzaga in the second round of the NCAA Tournament at Consol Energy Center. The insurmountable 0 for 10 stretch included missed shots by eight Mountaineers, sending them on a short trip home.
It was the guys from the West Coast who played the best Big East-style basketball.
"They out-toughed us today," West Virginia guard Truck Bryant said. "By the time we tried to stop them, it was too late."
It was the Mountaineers' worst NCAA Tournament loss in five seasons under coach Bob Huggins, surpassing a 21-point loss to Duke (78-57) in the 2010 Final Four.
Bryant and Kevin Jones were sophomores when the Mountaineers lost to the Blue Devils. Now seniors, they hoped for one more postseason run. But this year's team had been fading since February and lost nine of its final 13 games.
A bad shooting night sealed their fate. Bryant made just 2 of 10 shots and scored nine points. Jones made 5 of 14 and scored 13.
Jones, a first-team All-Big East forward, had averaged a conference-best 20.1 points and 11.1 rebounds. Gonzaga was determined to keep him from rebounding and held him to four.
"That was one of the best jobs a team has done on me as far as team defense and surrounding me," Jones said.
Gonzaga (26-6) will play second-seeded Ohio State or 15th-seeded Loyola (Md.) in the third round Saturday. The Buckeyes and Greyhounds played the late game yesterday at Consol.
Robert Sacre and Gary Bell Jr. each scored 14 points for Gonzaga, which had four players in double figures. The Bulldogs shot 56 percent, including 9 of 17 from 3-point range. West Virginia shot 32 percent, which included a 6 for 26 first half.
"This was a microcosm of our season," Huggins said. "This is the worst defensive team I've had in 30 years. We don't get help. We don't get loose balls. And a lot of it is because we are inept on defense. We haven't made shots for a month."
Sacre, a 7-footer with six rebounds and a block, wanted to "show that Gonzaga's not soft." He told teammates to "hit 'em, be physical, let everything else work itself out. As long as you're physical, that's all that matters."
The approach helped created a 13-0 run.
When West Virginia freshman Gary Browne buried a 3-pointer with 14:31 left in the first half, the Mountaineers were working through their shooting woes. They trailed by only two points despite making just three of their first eight shots.
Yet in the next 8:09, the game slipped away.
There were missed jumpers by Bryant, Jones, Jabarie Hinds, Keaton Miles and Deniz Kilicli and missed 3-pointers by Bryant, Browne, Aaron Brown and Paul Williamson, who missed twice. West Virginia's only point was a Jones free throw.
Gonzaga's lead reached 17 points before West Virginia made another shot. When Jones made a layup 6:22 before halftime, the Mountaineers trailed, 27-10.
Most of West Virginia's roster was freshmen making their NCAA Tournament debut. One of them, Browne, led West Virginia with 15 points.
Gonzaga's Kevin Pangos showed no freshman jitters while making his tournament debut. The latest in a line of star Gonzaga point guards, Pangos had 13 points -- all in the first half -- and made 5 of 6 shots in those first 20 minutes.
Pangos, Bell and Elias Harris made consecutive 3-pointers in a two-minute span that jump-started Gonzaga's night. The Bulldogs made five of their first six 3-pointers and carried that momentum to a 40-22 halftime lead.
West Virginia was never within 16 points in the second half and never within 20 during the final 15 minutes. A 3-pointer by Harris with 13:34 left gave Gonzaga a 57-31 lead. The 26-point edge was the largest.
"There was always a feeling of frustration throughout the whole game," Jones said. "They came out tougher, more aggressive, more energized than we were. You see the result of it."
Gonzaga vs. West Virginia
Gonzaga defeats WVU in the second round of the 2012 NCAA Basketball Championship Thursday March 15, 2012 at CONSOL Energy Center.
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