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Thursday, March 15, 2012
Rapid Reaction: Gonzaga 77, W. Virginia 54

By Dana O'Neil

PITTSBURGH -- Quick thoughts on Gonzaga's 77-54 victory over West Virginia on Thursday in the second round of the NCAA tournament.

Overview: West Virginia traveled 75 miles for its second-round NCAA tournament game, Gonzaga 2,000. That was about right for the cruising speed for the teams, too.

While Gonzaga zipped, zigged and zagged, the Mountaineers looked like they were anchored to the court.

The Zags ate West Virginia up offensively, shooting 56 percent from the floor and a blistering 53 from behind the arc. They were also smothering defensively, forcing WVU out past the arc, from where the Mountaineers could hit only 3-of-17.

It was nothing less than a clinic from a team that, like West Virginia, is young, but is blessed with the one thing the Mountaineers have lacked all season -- decent shooting.

Senior forward Kevin Jones scored only 13 points -- and that’s not going to win many games for WVU.

Turning point: Approximately 16 seconds in. The Mountaineers led 2-0 ... and that was about the end of the highlights for West Virginia. By the end of the half, Gonzaga owned a 40-22 margin, completely dominating and outplaying the Mountaineers. It didn’t get better after that.

Key player: Robert Sacre came to Pittsburgh salivating at the chance to play some East Coast power ball. The Gonzaga forward didn’t really get that game, but he was important nonetheless, contributing 14 points and six rebounds. He got the outside part of the inside-outside compliment from Kevin Pangos (13) and Gary Bell Jr. (14).

Miscellaneous: The 23-point loss marked the worst for West Virginia coach Bob Huggins since a 21-point defeat to Duke in the Final Four in 2010, and nearly matched the 24-point beating Illinois handed his Cincinnati team in 2004. … This is the third year in a row Gonzaga has won its opening game in the NCAA tournament. ... These are two of the younger teams in the country. Gonzaga has three freshmen and four sophomores on its roster; West Virginia has seven freshmen.

Next game: Gonzaga faces No. 2 seed Ohio State, setting up a couple of terrific battles Saturday — between Pangos and Aaron Craft at the point and Sacre, who has been begging for more physical games, against Jared Sullinger.