The students were assembled outside the arena early and signing “100 Bottles of Beer on the Wall” … surely apropos of nothing.
Gus Johnson and Greg Anthony are seated in front of the student section with their backs to the camera as they film their intro. The presence of Oh My Gus! guarantees this game will be one to remember.
Then there’s the two fellas in the front row of the student section, all the way to their left. Prepare yourself …
Turkish flag chest paint! You know it’s a big game. And it is. A January game on national television against a top-10 team from another power conference? That’s important stuff for WVU and it comes by design.
Really enjoyed this riveting feature about how WVU puts together its non-conference schedule. When the Mountaineers entered Big East play, they were No. 1 in strength of schedule. Purdue is No. 8 and the first ranked non-conference opponent. You think about that.
Or think about this, as it relates to the 2011-12 schedule:
“I can tell you it will be a harder schedule than this year’s,” he said. “You’ll see a mid-major added next year that’s been really good.
“We’re talking about a really good coach and a really good program and a team that, if you look at the history of the mid-majors, has been in the NCAA Tournament a lot. We were pretty surprised they wanted to play.”
Commence with the guesses … and the commentary.
12:56 pm: If you’re the superstitious sort, know that John Flowers is not wearing a headband.
1:05: On the whistle today: Jim Burr, Pat Driscoll and John Higgins. That’s a trio of 15-year veterans. Each called a game yesterday. Burr had Maryland-Villanova in Philadelphia, Driscoll had Marquette-Louisville in Louisville and Driscoll — he of 47 games and 32 DQs this season — had Oklahoma State-Colorado in Boulder. He’s visited a NCAA-high 21 states.
1:23: There are three lads with Turkish flags painted on their chests. One happened to be gone when I took my picture. Late-arriving crowd, by the way.
1:26 pm: After speaking with some Purdue people, keep an eye on E’Twaun Moore. He’s been slumping.
1:35: Lots of people, not a lot of energy. Also, a Kenny Powers head floating in the student section. Nice.
1:41: Prediction: Cam is coming in to set a pick 60 feet from the basket and get Lewis Jackson off Truck. Offense is wasting eight to 10 seconds getting into a position to start offense because Jackson is guarding Truck full-court. It’s 5-5 at the under-16 timeout with JaJuan Johnson going to the foul line for two free throws. WVU could not have started worse.
1:52: One of these teams is going to get hot and, by the looks of it, crack 50.
2:01: John Flowers, two fouls, two points and he hasn’t even taken a shot as he heads to the bench with 9:12 left in the half. Dalton Pepper has to be of some consequence here.
2:03: … or Truck can take over. He’s become a nice-enough rebounder of the basketball. Refs letting a lot go under the basket and during screens and cuts, though Cam might disagree.
2:06: Da’Sean Butler is here. I seriously think he’s seen more games than I have this season.
2:12: I don’t want to say WVU has played badly — the 11 turnovers can take care of that themselves — but Truck just threw a ball out of bounds to no one. Mitchell was in the vicinity, but it was an awful pass. Huggins told Mazzulla to get in the game. Truck and Mitchell both jogged off the floor, certain Mazzulla was their sub.
2:13: … and just as I was typing and telling Jack Bogaczyk, who is seated to my left, this is becoming a Mazzulla game, he catches Kelsey Barlow’s elbow in his face and draws the offensive foul. That’s two for him today.
2:17: Intentional foul! Refs go to the monitor during the under-4 timeout. Mazzulla makes both free throws. On the possession, Jones is fouled and makes two free throws. How about this: WVU has 25 offensive possessions and 11 turnovers. and leads 24-21.
2:21: Might not see Mr. Pepper for a while. Maybe even a long while. West is a better option at this point. And he’s in now. He’s not going to hurt you like Pepper has.
2:24: Flowers went to the bench with his second foul and the team’s seventh with 9:12 to go in the half. WVU has one foul since then and it was a questionable offensive foul call against KJ.
2:48: Again, would love to see/put together the splits for the start of the first and second halves for WVU this season. The players did three or four befuddling things in a row — leave this guy wide open, don’t stop the ball, refuse to run a play — to go from up four with all the momentum to down four and in a timeout. It’s 38-34 at the 16:17 mark and Purdue is 5-for-6 and suddenly awake.
2:50: Gravity of the situation: WVU plays Mazzulla, West, Cam, Flowers and Jones. Five guys who’ve been together longest and know one another best.
2:52: Flowers screens for Mazzulla, who makes a layup. Cam forces Johnson’s toughest shot of the game, which is a miss.
2:54: For people who care about such things, here’s an interesting text: “We were at the Rat Pack last night and Rodriguez arrived with Holgerson and his coaching staff. They talked all night and were still meeting when we left.”
2:56: Mazzulla misses, but forces a steal and Flowers scores.
2:58: Purdue seems to be challenging Kilicli to do something on defense. Many situations where he’s isolated or asked to figure out a screen.
3:02: Red Panda! Google it.
3:11: Purdue leads 50-46 with 7:55 to go and we’ve settled into a fairly competitive and festive game finally. Barlow’s stick-back dunk is my No. 2 highlight of the game. First is Gus clapping and bouncing along to “Thank God I’m a Country Boy” in the first half.
3:16: WVU hadn’t made a 3-pointer the entire half. Flowers and KJ go back-to-back and Purdue needs a timeout. Coliseum opts for “Shout” at a volume that has shattered my ear drums. In the arms-thrusting in the stands is a student with a sign requesting Kilicli’s hand in marriage. A phone number is included.
3:19: Mitchell joins the points-in-threes party with an and-one. If/when does Huggins go with a zone?
3:22: And Flowers with a zero-hesitation 3 for a 58-52 lead and another Purdue timeout. Strengthens a theory about basketball. Frequently the game isn’t about the number of things you do right/wrong, but when they’re done.
3:25: Deniz agrees. So, too, does Red Panda. She’s back!
3:27: I could watch that every game. I’d watch a HBO 24/7 on her. She nailed the Six Plate Special and punctuated it with an emphatic “whooooo!” She’s feeling it.
3:31: Just 1:43 remains. Both teams are in the bonus with two timeouts. WVU ahead 62-60 with the ball and perhaps a plan.
3:32: Mitchell appeared to slip as he took that shot and it’s right where the team was when it huddled for the timeout preceding that play. Deniz outmuscles Purdue for the rebound and a fresh shot clock. WVU calls another timeout with 1:16 to go. Big plays late for Deniz. Some bonehead plays, yes, but he’s evened things out.
3:35: WVU uses two timeouts and leaves Mazzulla and Flowers on the floor with Truck on the bench. Purude scores. WVU doesn’t call its last timeout — understandable — and Mazzulla get the inbound instead of Mitchell or Jones. Mazzulla misses the front end of the 1-and-1. Purdue ball with 28.7 seconds to go. I score quick if I can.
3:39: Mazzulla is a roller coaster, but onthe last rebound he got rid of that ball as fast and as safely as he could to Truck, who ices the game with two free throws. WVU is going to win this and the students, late of a Final Four run, will rush the floor.
3:42: CBS execs are having kittens now. The timeouts have been hurried and they’re still 12 minutes into the NFL pregame show.