West Virginia’s defense could present itself as a problem for Gonzaga after looking at the results of the Mountaineers’ 83-71 win over Notre Dame in the second-round game of the NCAA tournament last week.
The No. 4-seeded Mountaineers (28-8) play No. 1 Gonzaga (33-1) in a West Regional semifinal game Thursday at San Jose, California. The winner advances to the Elite Eight to play the winner of Xavier-Arizona.
The Fighting Irish, who commit only 9.5 turnovers a game during the season, almost turned the ball over that many times in the first half on Saturday. They finished with 14 against the Mountaineers
For Gonzaga, turnovers were a concern in their second round game. The Bulldogs committed 13 turnovers in their 79-73 win over Northwestern. The Wildcats scored 17 points off those turnovers.
“We were trying to make plays in small windows. And we’re not very good when we do that.” Gonzaga Coach Mark Few said.
West Virginia leads the nation in turnovers forced with 20.1 per game. Opponents turn the ball over on 28% of their possessions, which also tops the nation. Gonzaga averages a respectable 11.3 turnovers per game this season.
“That’s what we do,” West Virginia Coach Bob Huggins said of the press defense causing such confusion and havoc. “We try to make people play the kind of the way we want them to play.”
William-Goss, Gonzaga point guard said the Bulldogs know what it takes to handle the pressure because of their only loss of the season. “We don’t think of anything as pressure,” Williams-Goss said. “ We were undefeated and we didn’t feel any of it. This is what we live for, what we prepare for and enjoy doing, competing at the highest level.” Gonzaga turned the ball over 16 times in their only loss of the season against BYU.
But this pressure, “Press” is on the court. The Mountaineers use the entire length of the court. West Virginia has a deep rotation with 10 players averaging at least 11 minutes per game. Duration is the key word in this game. Gonzaga has seven players who average at least 22 minutes per game.
Can Gonzaga endure the “Press”ure of West Virginia?