The Mountaineers, with leaving it all on the floor, left so much more off the scoreboard, as its ice cold shooting led to the same cold reality that WVU's season was done. West Virginia did nearly everything asked entering. It limited the nation's most efficient scoring offense to a season-low 61 points. It had advantages in rebounding, field goal attempts, points off turnovers, second-chance points and more. But it simply couldn't hit, as a combination of Gonzaga's interior size and an inability to convert both point-blank looks and more challenged shots led to a 61-58 loss to Gonzaga in the NCAA Tournament here Thursday.
There was little question the West Region's top seed would be pushed to the brink. But the Zags, as they have in 35 of 36 games this season, found a way in the end, going on a 6-0 run to seal the game while the Mountaineers floundered at the line and in it ability to convert both lay-ins and in late-game situations. Down three with 25 seconds left, WVU managed to get two offensive rebounds, but missed a trio of three-pointers as the game, and the season, expired.
"We couldn't get a shot to fall, lay-ups included," Tarik Phillip said. "We were still in the game, though. We forced them into tough shots, for them to take tough shots. It came down to a couple possessions. We got great looks, got to the rim whenever we wanted. It wasn't them. We just missed stuff we usually make. There were a couple questionable possessions for us on offense and defense, but at the end it came down to one possession."
In which West Virginia inserted its best shooters and ran five-out. It never got a clean look, however, as the Zags challenged everything and, in the end, emerged with the win to move on to their third Elite Eight in school history, and the second in three seasons.
"Attack drive, whatever we had," Phillip said of the idea on the last play. "If we had a lay-up we would have taken that, too. We got a shot, got a rebound and got a good look."
But it wasn't to be, not on a night in which West Virginia simply could never score adequately in managing to tie for its fewest made shots of the season. It was the second-lowest percentage shot by any Zags foe this season.
"We did exactly what we needed to on defense. Hold a team like that to 61 points and you should win," Nate Adrian said. "We didn't execute on offense like we needed to. We weren't make shots we usually make. They are a good defensive team. They aren't going to give you open looks. You have to make shots."