No. 21/22 Gonzaga (1-0, 0-0) welcomes West Virginia (0-0, 0-0 Big 12) to the McCarthey Athletic Center Monday at 9:00 p.m.
The Stats – Monday night’s game marks the season debut for Bob Huggins’ squad. Their exhibition win over Glenville State was predictably lopsided, but not necessarily pretty – especially outside of the paint. The team hit just 1-of-14 from three-point range. The Mountaineers’ shooting woes played into their season-ending loss to GU in March. They connected on just 3-of-17 attempts in Pittsburgh. In Friday’s win over Southern Utah Gonzaga held the Thunderbirds to 4-for-17 shooting from three. If the Zags get going early (å la their opening round Tournament game) it could be tough for WVU to claw back (å la their opening round Tournament game).
The Stars –Huggins will bank on a trio of division I transfers this year, with 6-foot-10-inch Aaric Murray (La Salle) and guard Juwan Staten (Dayton) poised to make the biggest impact. Murray is among thie nation’s highest regarded transfers after averaging 15.2 points, 7.7 rebounds and 2.3 blocks as a sophomore in Philly. Of course there’s no overlooking Deniz Kilicli (aka the “Istan-Bull”). He’s the team’s top returning scorer and led the way with 19 in their exhibition. With WVU’s strength lying up front, the opportunity could be there for Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell Jr. to show out (å la their opening round Tournament game). As freshmen they combined for 27 points against the Mountaineers. In their first game as sophomores they combined for just 18 (with Pangos as one of six Zags to reach double-digits). Don’t be surprised if they leave more of a thumbprint on Monday’s meeting.
The Storylines – This one doesn’t take too much digging. In fact, Huggins has unearthed March’s one-sided affair in the offseason – reminding his players of the loss that ended their year. In the teams’ first ever meeting Gonzaga led by 18 at the half en route to a 77-54 win in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Monday’s game will be West Virginia’s first season-opening road test since 2003 (a 74-57 win at James Madison). This one takes them a bit further from Morgantown, with the memory of their last outing still fresh in their minds.