by Mike Bookey
ZagNation is going national tonight. The now 20th-ranked Bulldogs take the court in Morgantown to take on the Mountaineers of West Virginia University. And they're doing it on national television during primetime — 6 pm PST on ESPN2.
To Gonzaga fans, West Virginia is best known as the squad that the Zags have beaten into the ground the past two seasons. First came a 24-point shellacking in the first round of the 2012 NCAA Tournament and then Bob "Mafia Tracksuit" Huggins brought his Mountaineers to Spokane just eight months later only to get even more shellacked, that time by 34 points.
This year's Mountaineers have been playing some tough ball. They've lost three games, but all three were to quality opponents, including a seven-point defeat to #10 Wisconsin. Where it's going to get interesting tonight is the long distance shooting. The Zags, as I mentioned on Saturday, are the nation's top overall shooting team, overall from the field and from three-point land. WVU isn't too shabby, either. They stroke it at a 44 percent clip, good for sixth in the nation.
Expect things to get fast. Both these teams can get up an down the floor and, as I've said, aren't afraid to let it rip.
Keep an eye on WVU's Eron Harris. The sophomore guard is averaging almost 19 points a game.
Gonzaga guard Gary Bell got dinged up in Saturday night's game against New Mexico State and sat the entire second half. Apparently, it was a hip injury, but expect him to be back in the starting lineup tonight. Hopefully we'll also get another look at freshman Ryan Edwards. The 7-plus-footer from Montana got a couple minutes in the blowout over Coppin State, but didn't make an appearance Saturday night. But all reports have him recovered from a tonsillectomy.
It's December 10, but somehow this is Gonzaga's first actual road game of the season. They traveled to Maui in November, but those were technically "neutral site" games. This has to be a refreshing change for a Gonzaga team known to criss-cross the nation in the early months of the season, hoping to boost its tournament resume before dominating WCC play.
Is it just me, or is there anyone else out there who still thinks of Kevin Pittsnogle when someone mentions West Virginia basketball? Anybody remember this ugly, yet deadly son of a gun? The guy could totally stroke it, as he did in the 2006 NCAA tournament, taking the Mountaineers all the way to the Sweet Sixteen. His prowess in that tournament prompted my friends and I to develop a drinking name called Pittsnogle. As I recall, it was a combination of beer pong and bowling and featured more than a page of rules.
What ever happened to ol' Pittsnogle, you ask? He never made an NBA squad but dabbled in the D-League for a few seasons. These days, he'll happily sell you a Jeep in Martinsville, W.V.