West Virginia forward Deniz Kilicli (13), guarded by Gonzaga freshman center Przemek Karnowski, fouled out with only five points in an 84-50 loss to the Bulldogs. (James Snook-US PRESSWIRE)
Turns out, Gonzaga’s NCAA win over West Virginia last March wasn’t a fluke.
Eight months after dominating WVU in March Madness, the No. 19 Bulldogs delivered an even more brutal beating in Midnight Madness. Gary Bell’s 15 points led four double-digit scorers for Gonzaga, which rolled to a 27-point halftime lead and, eventually, an 84-50 victory.
Bob Huggins predicted that flying cross-country to face Gonzaga (2-0) would let his team “know what we have to fix.” Well, his to-do list looks extensive after the Mountaineers had nearly twice as many fouls (28) as field goals (15).
“I care way too much about this university and this state to let this happen,” the coach said. “Got to find a way to fix it, and I will find a way to fix it.
“We’ve missed shots before, and we’ve thrown it around before, but we’ve always competed. This team doesn’t compete.”
West Virginia forward Deniz Kilicli, held without a field goal until the 15:02 mark of the second half, fouled out after contributing only five points, five rebounds and five turnovers. The senior managed only only six shots as WVU rarely worked the ball inside.
“I’m not very happy with Deniz today, but in all fairness, when you go down there and post and they keep looking you off, it’s hard to keep posting,” Huggins said.
Kilicli said his team looked disorganized — “like we just got together yesterday.”
Point guard Juwan Staten, who drew raves from teammates and coaches throughout the preseason, was shutout on 0-for-6 shooting in his WVU debut. Staten committed two turnovers and his lone assist came on a breakaway dish to Aaric Murray in the final two minutes. That was one of the few transition opportunities for WVU, which devoted its offseason to playing faster in search of fast-break baskets.
“I thought we would get out and run more, but the thing is, you have to create turnovers to run and we didn’t do that tonight,” Staten said. “You’ve got to play great defense. You can’t just run if the other team is scoring.”
Matt Humphrey, the senior transfer from Boston College, also struggled in his first WVU game, scoring five points on 1-of-7 shooting from 3-point range. The Mountaineers finished 3-of-26 (11 percent) from long distance and 15-of-55 (27 percent) overall.
Gonzaga, buoyed by four returning starters, shot 52 percent overall and 9-of-16 from beyond the 3-point line. Guy Landry Edi added 14 points, while Kevin Pangos scored 13 and Elias Harris 11. Coach Mark Few said he was worried Gonzaga “might get exploited on the glass,’ but the Bulldogs owned a 38-36 edge in rebounds.
Outside of Murray (14 points, four rebounds and three blocks), all the Mountaineers endured futile nights. Reserve forward Kevin Noreen fouled out in only eight minutes without managing to grab a rebound. Starting guard Jabarie Hinds had three turnovers against one assist while scoring nine points. He made 1-of-6 on 3-pointers as WVU’s too often settled for jumpshots against Gonzaga’s zone.
“We weren’t flashing middle or flashing to open spots,” Hinds said. “We were just around the perimeter passing the ball around, making their zone look better than it was.”
By the time WVU closed the night with 18 turnovers and only eight assists, Huggins had used 11 players. That included 20 minutes of action for true freshman Terry Henderson, who scored three points.
The Mountaineers were scheduled to board a commercial flight around 5 a.m. Pacific time and spend most of Tuesday in the air before arriving in Pittsburgh around 5 p.m. Taxed by the travel itinerary, Huggins said the team probably wouldn’t practice again until Thursday. WVU’s next game comes Nov. 22 against Marist in the Old-Spice Classic in Orlando, where the bracket could yield potential games against fellow Big 12 member Oklahoma or, yet again, Gonzaga.
During the interim, Kilicli said the Mountaineers must fix their minds and their execution after coming unraveled in Spokane.
“It’s all on us,” Kilicli said. “All the things that we had to do — that we worked on in practice — we didn’t do it. Nobody did it. Today everybody was bad.”