No. 10 seed West Virginia starts NCAA tournament against No. 7 Gonzaga
Published: Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, March 14, 2012 23:03
The West Virginia men’s basketball team has lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament just twice since the 1991-92 season.
It’ll try to keep that number at two when it plays seventh-seeded Gonzaga in the first round of the NCAA tournament today in Pittsburgh.
The 10th-seeded Mountaineers limped into the tournament after losing eight of their last 12 games.
Despite that, West Virginia players are entering the tournament with the mentality that the tournament is a new season.
"It feels like a new season right now," said freshman Gary Browne. "We didn’t have a great season this year, but it feels like we can start fresh again with this tournament."
Browne also said that he was excited to be able to play in front of a home crowd since the game is in Pittsburgh.
Gonzaga head coach Mark Few said that he didn’t see it being an issue for his team, though.
"The one thing we always try to impart on our guys is control on what you can control," Few said. "We don’t have any control of when or where. We just need to take advantage of the fact that we’re in the tournament. We have to play our best basketball on Thursday to see if we can advance."
The Mountaineers will be led by seniors Kevin Jones and Truck Bryant.
Jones leads the team with 10.1 points and 11.1 rebounds per contests, while Bryant is scoring 17.2 points.
Gonzaga players said that they’re hoping for a physical game against West Virginia.
"The mentality of basketball on the west coast is really changing," said Gonzaga forward Robert Sacre. "It’s becoming a more physical game. I feel that we can compete with any team in the country."
Jones and Bryant were both quick to dismiss any idea that tonight’s game would be more physical.
" I don’t think it’s that big of a deal," Jones said. "I just call it playing hard. If they call it physical, they might want to be more physical. I think it’s just more of a playing hard thing."
West Virginia center Deniz Kilicli compared the physical nature between West
Virginia and Gonzaga to a boxing match.
"You see two sides talking and one side says they’re going to be so physical, and they get their ass whooped," Kilicli said. "They don’t know anything about (us), and we don’t know anything about them, but we play in the Big East.
"We plays guys like them all year every night. They haven’t played someone like us.
"I totally respect what they stand for and they’re a really good team, but if they just talk about physicality, it’s not going to happen."
Gonzaga is led by four double-figure scorers. Freshman guard Kevin Pangos leads all scorers with 13.8 points, while Elias Harris is scoring 13.1 points and leads the team with 8.7 rebounds.
"Hopefully my shots are falling," Pangos said. "I’m just going to stay aggressive. My teammates have confidence in me that I’ll knock it down. I want to do other things than just shooting."
Pangos is averaging only one turnover per game and is collecting 3.3 assist per contest.
Sacre is scoring 11.7 points and is second the team with 6.3 points, while freshman guard Gary Bell, Jr., is scoring ten points per game.
"They’re very good shooters – they don’t beat themselves," Jones said. "They don’t make many mental mistakes. We have to cut down on our mental mistakes if we want to stay in the game."
Tipoff is scheduled for 7:20 p.m.