Gonzaga proved, both in a blowout NCAA tournament win in March and in the wee hours of Tuesday morning, that if nothing else, it is better than the Mountaineers.
The Bulldogs jumped out to a 45-18 lead by halftime and cruised to an 84-50 win in WVU’s season opener, the first game of ESPN’s 24-hour college basketball marathon.
One could excuse even the most diehard of fans if they sought the comfort of a warm bed by halftime, as the game had been all but decided by then.
Player of the Game
West Virginia was buried under a deluge of fouls, turnovers and missed shots. Its only lead came when the score was 2-1 on an Aaric Murray basket in the post. By the third media timeout of the first half, it trailed by 16 points and had only three made field goals while committing more than 10 turnovers and 10 team fouls.
“It’s embarrassing,” WVU coach Bob Huggins told the Mountaineer Sports Network. “I care way too much about this university and the program and the state for this to happen. It’s my job to fix it and I’ve got to fix it. It’s all on me. I’ve got to find a way to fix it, and I will find a way to fix it.”
It was West Virginia’s first loss in a season-opener since 1997, a 76-61 loss at Minnesota.
The Mountaineers (0-1) made one brief 14-5 rally in the second half, getting back within 18 points at 50-32 when transfer Matt Humphrey stole the ball near midcourt and ran out for an easy dunk.
But Gonzaga (2-0) put any notion of a comeback to rest immediately, promptly going on a 7-0 run -- an Elias Harris 3-pointer, a David Stockton basket ruled good on a goaltend and a Kevin Pangos jumper -- to squash the little momentum WVU had built and push the lead back to 25 at 57-32.
“I think the first thing we’ve got to do is find out who really wants to play and who doesn’t want to play ... We just don’t compete,” Huggins said. “We’ve missed shots before. We’ve thrown it around a bit before, but we’ve always competed. I think that’s the biggest problem I have. We don’t compete.”
West Virginia didn’t register its 46th point -- just one point more than Gonzaga scored in the first half -- until only 3:11 remained in the game. The Mountaineers finished with only 50.
Huggins’ squad shot only 27.8 percent from the field (15-of-54). The school’s statistical archives indicate there have only been 12 games in program history in which WVU has finished with a lower shooting percentage. It shot 11.5 percent from 3-point range, the program’s fifth-worst mark in a game in the last decade.
“We’ve just got so much to fix ... I don’t know. I must have been an idiot when I played, because if I’m shooting it that bad, I’m not going to shoot it. I’m going to give it to other guys,” Huggins said.
The Mountaineers finished with 28 team fouls. That is the fifth-most in a single game for West Virginia in the last decade.
Murray, a La Salle transfer, was the only WVU player in double figures with 14 points. Guard Jabarie Hinds added nine points, and fellow guard Gary Browne finished with another seven.
Gonzaga had five players with 10 or more points, led by Gary Bell, Jr., who had 15 points. Guy Landry Edi added 14 points and seven boards.
“We’re just not transferring what we do in drills to playing the game,” Huggins said. “We don’t play the game the right way. We won’t make an extra pass. We’re either incapable of passing the ball or just refuse to pass it. But we’re going to fix it.”