West Virginia 55, Virginia Tech 52

HokieCentral's Game Report

The only positive things I can say about this game are that it had drama and a good Cassell crowd.

And oh, yeah, it had Rolan Roberts.

This was a hack-fest the likes of which you've never seen.  This is probably the most physical game (and the most loosely-officiate game) I have ever watched, as numerous bumps, slaps, and tackles went unpunished.  The only compliment I can pay the refs is that they called the game hideously in both directions.  Both WVU and Tech got away with murder.  Unfortunately, if the game is physical, it favors WVU more than Tech, and that was the case here.

The Hokies aren't exactly tiny.  Rolan Roberts is a man, and Russ Wheeler has good size.  Beyond that, though, we don't have much, whereas WVU had a nine-man rotation, most of which were beefy boys.  By the end of the game, the Hokies' inside guys were dragging, and WVU just kept bringing more monsters in off the bench.  I was actually surprised that Tech hung in the game like they did, given that WVU had the numbers game won.

WVU's top six or seven players are all seniors, and Tech still gave them a run for their money.  But if you're like me, you've had enough moral victories (USC, UNC, and now WVU), and you're ready for these young and talented Hokies to knock somebody off.   The Associated Press ranked the Mountaineers #23 coming into the game (I incorrectly criticized the AP poll in yesterday's News and Notes for not ranking the 'Eers - it turns out that the poll, which ranked WVU #39, was last weeks' poll, and it didn't get updated until just before this game).  I was anticipating a Hokie upset, much like I anticipated an upset in the South Carolina game, and I was disappointed that I didn't get one.

Bobby Hussey was disappointed, too.  Bill Roth talked to him after the game and brought up the fact that Tech has played three ranked teams closely this season, and Hussey replied with, "Yes, but I'm a competitor, and I expect to win every time I step on the floor."  Translation:  yeah, we played all three ranked teams close, but so what?  They're all losses.

The more I hear from Hussey, the more I like him.  He seems to a hard-working, competitive, driven man who expects the most out of his team and coaches and works them to get what he wants.  I'm fascinated that he was able to play second fiddle to Bill Foster for six years without blowing a major blood vessel in his brain.  Foster was a good coach and a very likable guy, but he was laid back and didn't seem to place the emphasis on hard work and competitiveness that Coach Hussey does.

Coach Hussey also seems to be very savvy when it comes to dealing with the fans.   Whereas Foster placed an emphasis on defense and ball control, to the point where Cassell started emptying out due to too much booooring basketball, Coach Hussey lets this team run and romp.  He knows what fills up the seats, and he also knows that a full coliseum will help his team play better.  Foster never seemed to get that, and it's evidenced by the attendance problems that he had no matter where he coached.

My guess is that when Foster was hired, Hussey was part of the package deal, and it was always in the cards that Bobby would replace Bill.  Knowing that, it must have been an interminably long wait for Bobby Hussey.  But now he's got what he wants:  a head coaching job at a major university with his own players and a chance, at age 56, to leave his mark.

But back to this game.

This was a dog fight the whole way, not just in the style of play, but in the closeness and fierceness of the game.  Neither team led by more than 7 at any point, and that was just briefly, when WVU took a 41-34 lead in the second half.  Other than that, it was nip-and-tuck the whole way, in front of a boisterous Cassell Coliseum crowd of about 7500 that included about 1500 WVU fans.  The students were gone, but there were a lot of fans there, and the place was loud for the entire second half.

This is just more evidence that if you play a "name" team, people will show up, whether the students are there or not.  I left with a headache from screaming (a) for the team (b) whenever Rolan Roberst dunked, and (c) at the refs.

Ultimately, what doomed Tech were the following three things:

  • Poor shooting - Tech shot 18-57 (31.6%) from the field, including just 2-13 (15.4%) from 3-point range.
  • Inability to execute the offense late in the game - hampered by the physical style of play, Tech struggled to get off good shots down the stretch.
  • Subpar games from key players - Russ Wheeler and Jenis Grindstaff played well, but they shot poorly and didn't come through like the Hokies needed them to.  Russ was 3-11, Jenis 3-14.

There were a couple of plays late that really hurt the Hokies.  With WVU clinging to a one-point lead, 52-51, Shawn Browne threw an inbounds pass straight to a WVU player, who dribbled in and dunked it, giving WVU a three-point lead with 2:40 to go.

Also late in game (I don't remember exactly when), Eddie Lucas dribbled into traffic on the left side of the key, where he was fouled - at least according to a ref standing right there.  The ref at half court, however, a mere 40 feet away, saw it as walking, and overruled the ref who was 8 feet away.  Happens all the time.

In the end, like I said, it was a dramatic game and it had a great crowd.  But I would have preferred a victory.

USA Today Game Summary (includes stats)

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