If you woke up this morning in sports agony, don’t worry, you are not alone.
One of the most gut punching losses in WVU sports history took place last night in San Jose, California when the Mountaineers suffered a 61-58 loss at the hands of the No.1-seeded Gonzaga Bulldogs in the Sweet 16.
What makes the loss even tougher to absorb is the fact that analyst and former NBA player Chris Webber gushed over the Mountaineer defense all game long. In the halftime studio, former pro Jim Jackson called the WVU press the best defense he has ever seen on the collegiate level. All those compliments, yet still a season ending loss.
And the last 1:50 started the downfall.
West Virginia is like no other team I’ve ever watched. They seem to panic late in games when they get the lead. Most teams start to go into a frenzy when they fall behind late, but not WVU. They are the complete opposite.
For example, last night after the officiating crew spent literally five minutes figuring out something that everyone else had solved in five seconds, including Webber, Jevon Carter drilled a clutch 3-pointer to give the Mountaineers a 58-55 lead with just under two minutes to play.
Then the panic set in.
Tarik Phillip, who is going to be remembered for his subpar performance in this game even though he is one of the better Mountaineers in recent memory, committed a foul at half court with Gonzaga in the bonus and a 90 percent free throw shooter handling the ball. It was a huge mistake though some fans are claiming that Nigel Williams-Goss initiated the contact, but still, Phillip needed to just drop back and play regular defense at that moment in the game.
Williams-Goss sank both free throws, the momentum shifted and you could just feel what was coming.
Over the next minute, Phillip missed a gimme shot in the lane, Daxter Miles missed two foul shots, Adrian, off of an offensive rebound, missed a dunk (though he was probably fouled) when the ball slipped out of his hand and Jordan Mathews of Gonzaga goes down, drills a three and just like that it was game over.
I would be willing to bet not many Mountaineer fans got to bed before one o’clock and even then probably did not get to sleep until several minutes after that. But that’s what Mountaineer diehards do. Lay in bed thinking about how next season is the year they win it all. Next year this and next year that.
Honestly, it feels like WVU is cursed, like they are not allowed to achieve the greatest feeling of all. They always get so close and just when you think they have turned the corner, they foul a 90 percent free throw shooter 40 feet from the basket, miss two free throws, miss a lay-up and a dunk and allow a dagger 3-pointer.
Phillip and Adrian should not have had to go out like this. Both players played their tails off for three and four years, respectively and hopefully will be remembered for the great things they brought to the West Virginia program. It is too bad they don’t get another chance to re-prove their worth in this what have you done for me lately world.
If the Mountaineers did not provide heartbreak for fans, none of them would feel like they were on this planet. That’s what happens when you love WVU. Your heart breaks, your stomach hurts and you are always left wondering what if.
But West Virginia will eventually break through the door they now cannot seem to get through. If you beat on the door enough, eventually it will open. They are definitely knocking on it now so the opening should occur soon.
But until it does, I promise there will be more heartbreak and sadness along the way.
Cover Photo Credit: Dale Sparks- All-Pro Photography- WVUsports.com