Just the Facts, Ma'am: In a game that featured bad shots, contested shots, and ill fortune for both teams, the West Virginia Mountaineers took out the Georgetown Hoyas 39-32. The Mountaineers got 11 second-half points from Taylor Palmer to break the game open, while Asya Bussie had nine points and 13 rebounds. Sugar Rodgers led the Hoyas with 14 points and 11 rebounds, but no other Georgetown player managed more than five points, as Georgetown shot 14.7% from the field for the game.
For amateur photography, battling bands, the song that never changes, and shooting so bad the rims were unkind the rest of the night, join your intrepid and drained blogger after the jump.
It's a good sign when your bus driver is a St. John's fan as you make your way out to Hartford. We arrived right on time, maybe even slightly early, and found breakfast at the Hilton next to the XL Center. Got to wave hello to our team, which was nice. Pretty sure I saw Harry Perretta jogging past in shorts, which was not so nice. Definitely crossed paths with Quentin Hillsman, and furthermore deponent sayeth not.
The XL Center was prepared for fans to come early- this pregame prelude is being typed in the Hoopla Hangout just off the Hallway of Champions. Unfortunately for the sanity of all involved, it is also being typed to a repeating loop of "A Horse With No Name". It's already played at least six times; if you don't get any further notes from me, it's because I went berserk and damaged XL Center property. The chairs and couches are very comfy, though, and the power strip is much appreciated.
I would love to win one of the autographed balls, except for the St. John's one because I've already got a poster on my wall at home and a poster on my wall at the office, both signed by this year's team. It's fascinating to see teams' culture as expressed by signatures and game balls.
There will be beads. It will be glorious.
So far there's been a batch of UConn fans, some Rutgers fans, a couple of Notre Dame fans, scattered members of the West Virginia band, a few Marquette fans who wished us luck, and some Nova people. I'm hoping to see someone from every team, even if it's just team officials.
Just saw a guy in an awesome West Virginia jacket. The Mountaineers' fans are drifting in in greater numbers. Credit to them.
The XL Center/ESPNU is doing their best to make sure that folks in the upper deck on the non-TV side are represented. They're doing it by moving us down to the lower bowl and on the TV side in exchange for a blurb for a video for the 30th anniversary or something- look, it's a free upgrade, I don't care.
A few Georgetown fans have arrived to back their team. There's a few well-dressed Louisville fans in the next section with some very nifty gear, and a Pitt fan who seems to have joined them just to cheer against West Virginia. And the Georgetown and West Virginia bands have declared war on each other- Georgetown's band played "Pretty Fly (For a White Guy)"- at which point West Virginia answered with the same song (and better). And then there was cacophony as the teams came out around the same time.
This is forty-seven flavors of ugly at the half. It's 15-12 West Virginia, and there is some impressive tackling going on by the Mountaineers. Georgetown's been retaliating with trips and hip-checks. I've seen Georgetown players leave with blood three times already.
There is a random Maryland fan over by the Louisville fans, sitting with someone in a "I Back Pat" shirt. Lost Rebounders? Have the Basketcases misplaced anyone? Props also to the guy in the Cincinnati cap- it takes a real fan to admit to being a Cincy fan these days. We are currently being serenaded by a high school choir (guys, "America the Beautiful" is not the national anthem, you don't have to stand).
Rodgers has eight to lead Georgetown; five each for Bussie and Bethel.
Holy Mary, mother of God. Don't ever let that happen again. I am not taking the Lord or the Virgin's name in vain. That is a prayer, not a blasphemy. Do not let a game like that happen again, I beg You.
The Guest Notes of Doom mentioned that Briana Brown off the bench was the heroine of the game when Georgetown was the home team against St. John's. Taylor Palmer served the same role for West Virginia. She got West Virginia going with a three that sparked off a full-fledged offensive run. Akilah Bethel provided a full third of the Mountaineers' offense in the first half, all five points of it. Averee Fields came on late. I don't remember Brooke Hampton doing much other than committing a foul.
Asya Bussie was how we knew that the Connecticut Sun's old PA announcer was doing this tournament. We thought it was him from the voice and the flaming red hair, but then he gave Asya Bussie the same call he gave Asjha Jones back in the day, and that was a clincher. She came up big for the Mountaineers, though how she didn't get called for anything after giving Adria Crawford some free dental work, I will never know. She didn't have to score a lot, but she was big on the boards and in the middle. Ayana Dunning ran into foul trouble in the second half and was generally knocked out of her comfort zone. Not that anyone was actually comfortable in that game, but you know what I mean. I think Christal Caldwell was the one who kept getting bad luck on her shots. I don't recall much about Linda Stepney and Harlee, other than tough play and missed shots.
Alexa Roche played well for Georgetown in the first half, but not so much in the second half. Tia McBride tried to get things going, with no luck. You're going to hear that phrase a lot in this part of the game notes; we're talking about a team that shot 14.7% from the field. Andrea White looked lost in the one stretch that she was in for, which was probably why she only played in that one stretch. Alexa Roche had the hands going on defense with steals and two gorgeous blocks. Morgan Williams is not ready to take over for Rubylee Wright yet. She doesn't have good control (or perhaps understanding) of the offense, and her judgment is a bit suspect.
I thought Tia Magee was going to kill someone by the end of the game. It might have been one of the West Virginia players, it might have been one of the refs, it might even have been one of her own teammates. But between her inability to hit even the chippies and the physical beating she was taking, she was hot under the collar. Adria Crawford was also irked, though that was from a simpler reason- she got an elbow in the mouth and nothing to show for it. Sydney Wilson played well in the middle, but I think she was out of position more than she would want to admit. She had to come out for blood early in the first half. Rubylee Wright was at a major disadvantage for most of the game, and it didn't help that defensive switches or a lack thereof kept leaving her on Asya Bussie. I don't think I have to tell you why it's a bad idea for little bitty Rubylee Wright to be on a big bruiser like Asya Bussie. Sugar Rodgers tried so hard to keep her team in the game, crashing the boards and fighting for loose balls in addition to her usual shooting, but West Virginia's defense was keying on her for most of the game, especially in the second half, and she was often trying to force things against two and three defenders. When those defenders are Mountaineers, that plan does not work all that well.
Lots and lots of physical play. Lots and lots of fouls that should have been called. Lots and lots of fouls that were called. And then the clanking began. West Virginia missed something like five free throws in a row to let Georgetown stay within six points until they got one from Bussie.
West Virginia played ugly, but Georgetown played ugly, stupid, and desperate. They were forcing things, and I suspect they were missing their signals. There were a lot of looks back and forth and a lot of animosity in the air after turnovers or especially egregious defensive breakdowns.
The best part of the game was when the Georgetown band played "Hey! (Baby)" and the West Virginia band immediately started singing along. That's really not the kind of thing that should be the best part of the game.