So much for appearances.
West Virginia was supposed to be the physical team, and Gonzaga was supposed to be the finesse team from the West Coast.
In dispatching the Mountaineers from the NCAA Tournament, 77-54, Thursday night, all Gonzaga did was match the Mountaineers in toughness — and then some.
The rebounding edge was even at 31, but Gonzaga cleaned up on the defensive end, getting 25 boards. The Zags held the advantage in the paint, outscoring WVU 30-22.
“We talked about how we wanted to be the toughest team,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “Anytime you face a coach (Bob) Huggins team, you know they’re going to be tough, you know they’re going to be physical. We knew we couldn’t back down from that.
“It started and ended with rebounding. They’re a phenomenal offensive rebounding team and we did a great job of keeping them off that.”
Leading the way for Gonzaga was 6-foot-9 center Robert Sacre, who had 14 points on 6-of-9 shooting inside, and six rebounds.
Before the game, Sacre offered some pertinent advice to his teammates.
“Hit ‘em, be physical,” he said. “Let everything else work itself out. As long as you’re physical, that’s all that matters. Show that Gonzaga’s not soft.”
“I just feel like they out-toughed us today,” WVU’s Darryl “Truck” Bryant said.
Added WVU star Kevin Jones: “They came out tougher, more aggressive, more energized than we were.”
– By Joe Rutter