PITTSBURGH - When all was said and done, Bob Huggins could finally say it. Not that he would have shied away from the topic earlier, but now he could be blunt and unequivocal.
"This is the worst defensive team I've ever had in 30 years,'' Huggins said Thursday night. "We don't get the help, we don't get the loose balls. We don't do the things we've done for years and years and years.''
It was hard to argue the point, either, after Gonzaga shot 56 percent from the field, ran up a 20-point lead in the first half, a 26-point bulge in the second and barely broke a sweat in a 77-54 win over West Virginia in the East regional of the NCAA tournament at Consol Energy Center.
"They shoot 56 percent. That's never happened,'' Huggins said. "You've been around. That's never, ever happened. No matter how well somebody played, it never happened.''
Well, at least it seldom happens. Actually, this very team also allowed Notre Dame to shoot a blistering 61.4 percent less than a month ago. Predictably that was a lopsided loss, as well, 71-44. But prior to that only four opponents in Huggins' five season shot 56 percent or better against WVU's defense. In other words, it's a rarity.
Not that defense was the only issue with this West Virginia team or in this particular game.
"A lot of it is because we're so inept offensively,'' Huggins said. "They get breakouts. We throw the ball around, throw the ball to them. That adds to it.''
Indeed, Gonzaga got 16 fast break points Thursday night, which doesn't seem like that many. And it's not except for when they happened.
Every time WVU made a big basket or missed one after a solid possession, it seemed, the Zags took advantage with a quick one on the other end. It completely stymied West Virginia's ability to get any kind of momentum built up.
What bothered Huggins most, though, was that once again his team did not seem willing or able to follow a scouting report.
"We try to do a good job scouting. You can't let guys that are going to drive it right, drive it right. You have to make people uncomfortable,'' Huggins said. "They've got skilled guys. You try to take their tendencies away. We didn't do as good a job. The truth of the matter is it's kind of a microcosm of our season.''
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickm...@aol.com or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1