March 15, 2012
PITTSBURGH (AP) - Gonzaga flew 2,200 miles looking for a fight.
The Bulldogs never got one. West Virginia left all its moxie on the bus.
Robert Sacre and Gary Bell Jr. scored 14 points apiece as Gonzaga routed West Virginia 77-54 on Thursday night in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
Kevin Pangos added 13 points and five assists for the seventh-seeded Bulldogs (26-6), who will play Ohio State or Loyola (Md.) in the third round on Saturday.
Gary Browne led the 10th-seeded Mountaineers (19-14) with 15 points off the bench and Kevin Jones scored 13 in his final game for West Virginia, handed its worst postseason defeat in 28 years despite a decided home-court advantage.
Gonzaga never let the crowd get into it. The Bulldogs took control during a 13-0 run midway through the first half and cruised, shooting 56 percent from the floor while harassing the Mountaineers into tough shots all night.
West Virginia shot just 32 percent (16 of 49) from the field and made only three of 17 3-pointers.
Hardly the slugfest the Zags were expecting. They spent the run-up talking about the chance to mix it up with the bruising Mountaineers and show the West Coast Conference isn't "soft."
Turns out, they pulled a bait-and-switch.
Oh, Gonzaga didn't run away from the Mountaineers, it simply ran by them.
Playing the versatile, brainy style that's become the program's calling card during its 14-year NCAA tournament run, the Bulldogs controlled things from the opening tip and never let West Virginia get in the game.
Coach Mark Few worried his inexperienced roster would have trouble with the 6-hour flight east from Spokane, Wash., and the hostile crowd that tilted heavily toward the Mountaineers, a short 75-mile bus trip from Consol Energy Center.
Pangos wasted little time putting Few's fears to rest.
The freshman hit his first shot in NCAA play and his second, a 3-pointer that gave Gonzaga the lead 90 seconds into the game. Bell added one of his own and Elias Harris quickly followed.
The Bulldogs were just getting warmed up. The Mountaineers? Not so much.
Its offensive flow disrupted by Gonzaga's in-your-jersey defense, West Virginia failed to play with any rhythm on either end of the floor. The Bulldogs bottled up Jones and were more than happy to let forward Deniz Kilicli and senior guard Darryl "Truck" Bryant beat them.
Bryant, playing in his sixth and final NCAA tournament game for the Mountaineers, couldn't get going. He missed all five of his shots during a miserable first half and finished with nine points on 2-of-10 shooting while getting badly outplayed by Pangos and Bell. Kilicli fared no better. The brutish center from Turkey said Wednesday he didn't think the Bulldogs would be "prepared" to face a team as physical as West Virginia.
Gonzaga was more than ready and proved it during the final 12 minutes of the first half in which it blew the game open. An acrobatic layup in traffic by Guy Landry Edi started a 13-0 burst that gave the Bulldogs a 27-10 lead.
The Mountaineers missed eight straight shots during the stretch and fell asleep on defense, a cardinal sin when you play for Bob Huggins. During one sequence, Aaron Brown clanked a 3-pointer and then got caught watching - along with Bryant and Browne - as Edi streaked behind them and collected a long pass from Pangos for a dunk.
Huggins exploded out of his chair and called timeout, but the Bulldogs kept right on going, taking a 40-22 lead at the break to cap a nearly flawless first half.
The only real miscue came from sophomore point guard David Stockton, the son of Hall of Fame guard and Gonzaga alum John Stockton. Though the younger Stockton knocked down a 3-pointer during the game-turning run, he also airballed a free throw.
His father, sitting six rows behind the Gonzaga bench, stifled a laugh as his son shook his head, one of the few mistakes the Bulldogs made on a night they rolled into the round of 32.