PITTSBURGH - Before West Virginia's NCAA tournament game with Gonzaga, Mountaineer assistant coach Erik Martin sat at the end of his team's bench before many had filed into the Consol Energy Center.
Martin spoke about how the team had to contend with 7-foot Zag center Robert Sacre. He spoke about the youth of Gonzaga freshman guard Kevin Pangos, and how that might provide a ray of hope. Then he spoke of the team's practices, leading up to the game, one on Tuesday in Morgantown and those at Duquesne. He made a point of highlighting the last tuneup.
"It might have been our best shootaround of the year," he said.
Figures, eh? Gonzaga was the team that shot the lights out of the CEC, hitting 56 percent of its attempts, while WVU, playing at an arena known for its ice rink, experienced a total meltdown. The Mountaineers shot 32.7 percent, which was an improvement over the halftime percentage of 23.1.
It was ugly for the - for all intents and purposes - home team. The Mountaineers had a decided crowd advantage playing an hour away from Morgantown. But because of the pratfall, the joint was as quiet as the Carnegie Library for most of the night.
"It was a microcosm of our season," said WVU coach Bob Huggins.
He called his offense the "worst" and "inept." He pointed out that the Mountaineers couldn't spread out a defense "because we can't make any shots."
Gonzaga, meanwhile, looked efficient and skilled. And the Zags took control early.
There was serious foreshadowing. WVU guard Truck Bryant, whose fortune so affected the Mountaineers this season, clanked on his first 3-point attempt. Zag freshman guard Kevin Pangos - jitters anyone? - then came down and drilled his first try.
Then it was Gonzaga's Gary Bell for a trey. And Elias Harris for another.
Bryant tried another. And missed. And backup Mountaineer center Dom Rutledge was whistled for a foul on the rebound. So it went for WVU on Thursday. So it went for it for much of the season.
At the first media timeout, 15:49, Huggins had that look on his face. The one that said, "Uh oh." With good reason.
Huggins resorted to trying walk-on Paul Williamson for scoring. When even that didn't work, he looked down his bench. What he found was a bare cupboard.