The Mountaineers lost a heartbreaker at home on Tuesday night to No. 15 Gonzaga, 80-76.
The Zags got off to a quick 4-0 start to silence the Mountaineer crowd. WVU would get on the board with 18:14 remaining in the first half, making it 4-2 Gonzaga. Pangos would push the lead back to four for the Bulldogs on the next possession. Eron Harris cut the deficit to just one the next time down the floor, 6-5. Gonzaga held the lead heading into the first media timeout of the game, 12-10. Harris had seven points while Gary Bell Jr. added six for the Zags in the first four minutes.
Harris gave the Mountaineers their first lead of the game at the 14:06 mark in the first half, 13-12. The lead would not last long, as the Zags quickly went back in front on a jumper by Gerard Coleman, 14-13. Juwan Staten added a jump shot of his own to give WVU the lead back with 11:16 to go in the first half, 15-14. Pangos and Karnowski added back-to-back buckets for the Zags to retake the lead just a few seconds later, 19-15. The Mountaineers would continue to battle back, and regained the lead at the 8:11 mark in the first half when Juwan Staten added a pair of free throws, making it 24-22 WVU.
Nathan Adrian added a three on the next offensive possession to give the Mountaineers their largest lead of the game at five points, 27-22. The three by Adrian 7:30 mark in the first half gave WVU momentum over the final seven minutes. Eron Harris hit back-to-back shots from behind the arc to give the Mountaineers a 37-33 lead with 1:44 left to play in the first half. Karnowski would end the 6-0 run by WVU with 37 seconds remaining. Juwan Staten hit a layup to end the first half, giving the Mountaineers a 39-35 halftime lead.
Coming out of the break, WVU looked to provide a knockout punch. Terry Henderson added four points to his total to give the Mountaineers an eight-point lead, 43-35, their largest of the game. Gonzaga would hang around, cutting the lead to six, 47-41. Juwan Staten would put the Mountaineers back up by 10 a couple of possession later, 51-41. The spurt by WVU did not put the Zags away. Karnowski and Bell Jr. quickly cut the lead to six, 51-45. Dower added another basket for Gonzaga to trim the lead to four, 51-47 WVU. Terry Henderson would hit a jumper on the next offensive possession, making it 53-47.
The Mountaineers would maintain their lead over the next few minutes, but Gonzaga would make a run. The Bulldogs got within one after Karnowski added a pair of free throws to his total, 66-65. Kevin Pangos put the Zags back in front for the first time since the first half on a three, making it 68-66 Gonzaga. Pangos would add another six points on the next two possessions for the Bulldogs, giving the Zags an eight-point lead, 74-66.
The three consecutive threes for Pangos seemed to take the life out of the Mountaineers. But with 1:25 remaining, WVU made a comeback. The three shots from behind the arc by Pangos left the Mountaineers and Coach Huggins frustrated after the game.
"He's a good player," said Huggins. "On the first three, we acted like we didn't know who he was. Then the other two they set baseline screens to get him open."
Huggins also said that the three shots were a result of not getting back on defense.
"We shot a couple air balls, and felt sorry for ourselves," said Huggins. "We didn't get back, and they made us pay for it."
Harris hit a three to cut the lead to 76-72 Gonzaga. WVU would pull within two on a Juwan Staten jumper after getting a stop on defense, 76-74. The defensive pressure almost forced another turnover on the next Gonzaga possession, but the Mountaineers gave up a dunk to Dower, putting the Zags back up four, 78-74.
WVU would be forced into fouling over the final 35 seconds, and would lose a heartbreaker at home to No. 15 Gonzaga, 80-76. The loss was another game in which the Mountaineers could not finish the job. Huggins did credit his players for their effort afterwards.
"We didn't finish the task," said Huggins. "But you can't say those guys didn't compete and play hard."
Eron Harris paved the way for the Mountaineers finishing with 23 points. Staten (17) and Henderson (15) also finished in double digits.
The loss now puts the Mountaineers at 7-4 on the season. WVU will have a quick turnaround as they will play in Charleston on Saturday against rival Marshall. Eron Harris says he and his team have to forget about the loss tonight.
"It's over," said Harris. "It's in the past, and we have to forget about it. We're a good team, and I think we showed that tonight."