Indianapolis, Indiana – There is absolutely no question who the better team was tonight. The West Virginia Mountaineers are bigger, stronger, deeper and more skilled than the #1 ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs.
Gonzaga Head Coach Mark Few told Bob Huggins after the game: “You’re the toughest team we’ll play all season.”
West Virginia made a major statement tonight by showing that they could beat anyone in the country, if the referees don’t take the game away from them. Bob Huggins didn’t necessarily see it that way. Huggins said, “I can’t find any silver lining when we lose. We had every opportunity in the world to win this game, and we should have won this game.”
But the referees clearly changed the way that they called the game in the second half of the game. West Virginia’s interior players were taken out of the game by horrendous calls. Oscar Tshiebwe fouled out on a play where he didn’t touch the player that he “fouled.” Gabe Osabuohien fouled out when a Gonzaga player elbowed him in the face.
When the Mountaineers can’t guard in the interior because of tick-tack calls, they won’t be very successful. Referees are clearly the only thing that can stop this talented, tough West Virginia team right now.
Although Huggins concentrated on what his team can do to improve in his post game interview, it was clear that he was not happy with the officiating: “You have three guys out there and what I don’t understand is how they don’t see Derek Culver getting beat up every time down the floor. I told them, ‘I know he’s 6’10, 270 pounds and strong as an ox, but that doesn’t give the other team the right to beat up on him.'”
While it’s difficult to take any positives from a loss, particularly for a team that is expected to win every game, West Virginia made a statement to anyone that saw tonight’s game. They are tough, they are physical and they can be any team in the country on any given night.