Once the quintessential NCAA tournament ‘Cinderella,’ Gonzaga has become a mainstay in March. Since their run to the region final in 1999, the Bulldogs have been included in the field every year and one at least one game nine times in 12 trips.
All those efforts couldn’t keep the selection committee from shipping them 2,200 miles across the country to Pittsburgh to play in West Virginia’s backyard, but a virtual road game for the higher-seeded Bulldogs had no effect.
Gonzaga bulldozed the Mountaineers from the opening tip to the final horn and cruised to a 77-54 win. The 33-point margin of victory was the biggest so far in the 2012 tournament.
Coming into Thursday, some analysts questioned how the runners-up in the West Coast Conference would handle West Virginia’s rugged, Big East brand of basketball. All the Bulldogs did was out-rebound the Mountaineers and hold them to 33 percent shooting on the night.
Robert Sacre (14 points), Gary Bell, Jr. (14), Kevin Pangos (13) and Elias Harris (10) all scored in double figures for Gonzaga which shot 56 percent from the field and 53 percent from three-point range (9 of 17).
West Virginia, which limped into the tournament after losing eight of its final 12 games — including a second-round Big East tournament loss to U-Conn. — was out-classed from the get-go and trailed by 17 midway through the first half following a 16-1 Gonzaga run. The Bulldogs led by 18 at the half and continued to extend its lead after the break.
Gary Browne led the Mountaineers with 15 points — 10 coming from the free throw line — and Kevin Jones added 13.
The Bulldogs will face the winner of No. 2 Ohio State and 15th-seeded Loyola (Md.) on Saturday.
Box score: Gonzaga 77, West Virginia 54
More from Washington Post Sports
March Madness: Interactive bracket & tourney history