The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

March 13, 2012

WVU gets break with short NCAA trip

By Dave Morrison
Register-Herald Sports Writer

— While everyone was rejoicing the fact that West Virginia, with the help of the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee, pulled the proverbial rabbit out of the hat with its second-round game being played in Pittsburgh, WVU coach Bob Huggins remained in character.

“What makes you think I am happy about it?” Huggins said. “You are not going to get the ticket requests that I am going to get.”

He was kidding.

West Virginia (19-13) faces Gonzaga (25-6) in Pittsburgh at the Consol Energy Center at 7:20 p.m. in the second round (the first round is now apparently used to refer to play-in games) of the NCAA Tournament.

It is, for all intents and purposes, a glorified home game, just 70 minutes from Morgantown.

And Huggins will take it.

“We need all the help we can get, so I hope it helps,” Huggins said. “Hopefully (fans) are on the phone now trying to get tickets because we are only going to get our allotment. Hopefully they find ways to get there, because I know they did when we played in Washington D.C. (on the way to a Final Four appearance in 2010).”

West Virginia is making its fifth NCAA appearance under Huggins. Gonzaga, coached by Mark Few, is making its 14th straight NCAA appearance.

The Bulldogs, who lost in the Mountain West championship game to St. Mary’s last week, are seeded seventh in the East Region while WVU locked down the 10th seed.

The seeding is important, Huggins said.

“The biggest thing that it does for you is that you can sneak in some second-game stuff if you are pretty confident about winning the first game,” the coach said.

He might not be that confident.

West Virginia is coming off an overtime loss to UConn in the Big East Tournament — the Mountaineers’ final Big East Tournament with their departure for the Big 12 coming this fall — and WVU lost a double-digit second-half lead and shot 0 for 11 from the field in the second half.

“We had practice a couple of days and tried to clean some things up,” Huggins said of the team’s post Big East Tournament activity. “We shot the ball.”

On top of that, Gonzaga is good.

The balanced-scoring Bulldogs are led by 6-foot-1 guard Kevin Pangos, who averages 13.8 points per game. Elias Harris, a 6-7 forward, averages 13.1 and 8.7 rebounds, 7-foot center Robert Sacre averages 11.7 points and 6.3 rebounds and 6-11 guard Gary Bell averages 10 points.

“I don’t know very much,” Huggins said. “I have seen some of their highlights. There are only so many things that you can do.

“Basketball comes down to a couple things. You can’t really get more than three guys involved in a play. You have to figure out a way to get the other two guys out of the way. It’s all about numbers and trying to get the number in your favor. There are only so many ways to do that.”

Kevin Jones, who had 25 points and 10 rebounds in the loss to UConn, is averaging 20.1 points and 11.1 rebounds for WVU. He has 21 double-doubles this season. Truck Bryant averages 17.2 points and Deniz Kilicli, who prepped at Mountain State Academy in Beckley, is averaging 10.7 points.

The winner of Thursday’s game will meet the winner of No. 2 seed Ohio State (27-7) and No. 15 Loyola, Md., (24-8) Saturday.

— E-mail: demorrison@