Many times throughout the past few years, the Gonzaga Bulldogs have looked like world-beaters on paper, only to devolve into a collection of nice parts that don’t quite mesh consistently.
This season’s Zags, once again favored to win the WCC crown and plunge deep into the postseason, look like something else entirely. Late in a game that would become an 84-50 drubbing of West Virginia, the home team got sloppy for a few moments, giving up a couple of turnovers and easy buckets to the Mountaineers. Enough was clearly enough, as the Zags tightened up their handle, executed a crisp passing game, and showed no quarter to Bob Huggins and his squad.
Mark Few’s team was exceptional from the field, draining 9-16 three-pointers on the way to a 52 percent shooting mark overall. Gary Bell, Jr. led all scorers with 15 points and controlled the ball throughout, dishing four assists to one turnover. Elias Harris, G. Landry Edi and Kevin Pangos also scored in double figures for the Zags.
LaSalle transfer Aaric Murray was the only Mountaineer in double figures, notching 14 in his West Virginia debut.
The Bulldogs once again have one of the most brutal schedules in America, facing three more Big 12 teams in the month of December. They also get down with Clemson, Washington State and Illinois before the new year, and shoehorn Butler into the middle of conference play in January. Nobody will ever accuse Mark Few of overindulging in cupcakes.
Gonzaga showed finesse tonight, sure. But they also showed real defensive toughness and presence of mind against a Bob Huggins-coached team. That’s real currency, even this early in the season.