West Virginia lost a hard-fought battle to No. 1 Gonzaga by the score of 87-82 on Wednesday night in the Jimmy V Classic at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Indiana
While the 11th-ranked Mountaineers came out on the losing end, there was several positives to takeaway on the night and some negatives.
First, Isaiah Cottrell came in late in the game and showed a lot of promise. Through the first three games of the season, the 6-foot-10, 240-pound freshman has seen limited action. However, with Oscar Tshiebwe and Gabe Osabuohien both fouling out, Cottrell saw significant minutes. He scored six points and played well. Defensively, he made some mistakes but overall, Cottrell showed a lot of promise.
“I thought Isaiah played well,” head coach Bob Huggins said. “He made a couple mistakes defensively. We probably need to spend more time with him because he is a skilled guy. He can shoot it and he can pass it.”
Derek Culver had another double-double on the young season. The 6-foot-10 junior had 18 points and 15 rebounds.
Despite taking the nation’s top team in the country down to the wire, the Mountaineers made several small mistakes that could have been the difference maker.
After the loss, Culver took the blame for the loss. He did make only 6-of-11 from the free throw line and missed a few down the stretch. Also, Culver had a few rebounds smacked away towards the end of the night.
“Gonzaga is a very good team but we had them today. I’m not going to lie,” Culver said. “I’ll put the blame on myself. There were a couple of times where I had the ball, and blindside help came and knocked the ball out of my hands.”
The Mountaineers made just 25-of-66 shots and allowed the Zags to score 60 points in the paint. They also gave up 25 fast break points and turned the ball over 15 times, leading to 23 points by the opposition.
WVU had just 30 points in the paint and only four fast break points.
Defensively, the Mountaineers struggled with Gonzaga in transition and with ball screens.
“We didn’t guard the ball screen,” Huggins said. “We have spent an enormous amount of time guarding the ball screen and we are going to have to do it a different way. We told our bigs to take the left hand, our guards take the right hand and we didn’t do it. We tried to hard hedge, we didn’t do that. Our guards continued to get screened and stand there. Our big guys got beaten to the spot. They scored 60 points in the paint and their perimeter guys scored a ton of them.”
In 21 minutes of action, Tshiebwe scored 14 points and grabbed nine rebounds. However, the big man spent most of the game on the bench in foul trouble before eventually fouling out. This has been an issue that has plagued the sophomore so far this season. WVU needs him on the court, especially late in the game.
“I have a hard time finding any silver linings in losing,” Huggins said. “I’m not wired that way. We had every opportunity to win the game and didn’t and you can’t get it back. It’s done now and now we go to Georgetown.”
The Mountaineers will remain on the road to the Hoyas in Washington, D.C., on Sunday, Dec. 6, as part of the Big East-Big 12 Battle.
Cover Photo Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports