Last year's Mountaineer team struggled through a terrible shooting performance in a season ending loss to the Bulldogs, and the story was much the same in the ugly 84-50 season-opening loss on the Zags' home court. West Virginia made just 15 of its 55 attempts from the field (including a frigid 3-26 from three-point range), as it fell behind by 15 points in the early going and never rallied.
"If I shoot it that bad, I'm not going to shoot it," WVU head coach Bob Huggins said afterward. "I'm going to give it to one of the other guys."
Only center Aaric Murray, who was 5-8 from the field, had anything approaching a respectable shooting game. WVU's guards were a combined 3-23 from three-point range, with many of those misses weren't close. Despite that lack of success, WVU still attempted almost as many threes as twos. Gonzaga had something to do with that, as its pressure man-to-man defense pushed the Mountaineers out of whatever semblance of halfcourt offense it came into the game with, and then collapsed on the few occasions when the ball was passed into the post. WVU assisted the Zags' defensive effort with 15 first half turnovers – almost as matching its halftime scoring output of 18.
"We're either incapable of passing the ball or refuse to pass the ball. It's embarrassing," Huggins noted. "I care way too much about this university and this program for this to happen."
WVU passed the ball so poorly that it twice failed to get the ball inbounds within the five-second time limit. It also bounced an outlet pass off the head of an unaware Jabarie Hinds on a transition attempt, and completed the trifecta by throwing the ball out of bounds on the first pass from the point to the wing in a set offensive play.
What bothered Huggins even more was the lack of competitive fire displayed by his team. In discussing that problem, he spoke even more strongly than he did a week ago following the team's lackluster performance in its exhibition win over Glenville State.
"We have to find out who wants to play and who doesn't want to play. We just don't compete. We've missed shots before but we've always competed. That's the biggest problem I have. We don't compete. We're just not transferring what we are doing in drills to the game. We aren't playing the game the right way. Obviously our bigs are either tremendously out of condition, or they are cowards, because they just laid it down."
That lack of effort allowed Gonzaga to build a 27-point halftime lead despite making just one of its first 12 shots from the field. After that shaky start, the Bulldogs mad 25 of their final 38 attempts, finishing with a 52% shooting mark from the field. WVU was so far out of the game that it didn't match Gonzaga's first half scoring total of 40 points until just 3:11 remained in the game.
The statistical ugliness reflected WVU's poor play across the board. The Mountaineers managed just eight assists, and allowed the Bulldogs to make nine of their 16 three-point attempts. Many of those came on wide-open tries, as West Virginia couldn't fight through screens or close out on shooters with any consistency.
The awful display leaves Huggins with a great deal to fix if West Virginia is to be even competitive in the Big 12 this season, but he vowed to do so.
"I'm going to fix it. It's all on me. I will find a way to fix it," he said.
Unlike me and my situation last year, however, he won't have anything to dull the pain while he makes the attempt.