Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Robert Morris Colonials 49 at West Virginia Mountaineers 82 (NCAA Basketball) - December 7, 2010

When I do these solo trips, I look for a game every day. In the summer, this is not hard with baseball pretty much everywhere, but in the winter, there's really only hockey and basketball during the week, so I often spend a long time scouring the internet for an event that is within driving distance. Fortunately there are college sports and although I am not a fan of the NCAA as an organization, it is always interesting to visit a college campus to watch a game. Such was the case last night as I needed to find a game between NHL tilts in Columbus and Pittsburgh. There was an ECHL game in Cincinnati but I've been to that venue before and it was well out of the way, so I was happy to find out that the West Virginia Mountaineers were hosting Robert Morris in Morgantown, WV, just over an hour south of Pittsburgh.

WVU Coliseum

Located on the northern edge of Morgantown, the WVU Coliseum is a concrete dome that was built back in 1970. With a capacity of 14,000 for basketball, it is surprisingly spacious inside despite looking somewhat pedestrian from the outside.

Tickets for the general public are $25 regardless of where you sit. There are two seating levels separated by a walkway, along with a section of sideline seats called the Coliseum Club. Student seats are just benches on the opposite sideline (brown section above), but as the students stand during the game, it doesn't really matter.

There's a single concourse that contains plenty of historical plaques and should be explored. Mountaineers who made All-American are honoured; Adam "Pac-Man" Jones was the most notable recent enshrinee. But the most impressive displays are the two cases that commemorate Jerry West, who played at WVU from 1956-60. His number 44 is retired (below) but there are historical items such as scorecard from his last home game (further below). I don't know much about basketball history but it was fascinating to read articles and see game programs from 50 years ago.

There are plenty of concession stands and each one has different items, so walk around and check what is available. I had a pepperoni roll and highly recommend that you avoid it. There was a BBQ beef sandwich for $8 that might be a better option.

There is a state-of-the-art scoreboard that was installed in 2008 and provides excellent video. There are also ribbon boards that surround the floor.

I found this venue thoroughly enjoyable. The history is well-presented and the fans are behind their team the whole way. I was about the only person not dressed in blue and gold. This is a must-see for any college basketball fan and makes a great road trip stop when there are no pro events in the area.

The Game

West Virginia won the Big East championship last season and finished last season ranked #3, losing to eventual champion Duke in the Final Four. Coached by Bob Huggins (above in his post-game interview), they are a nationally recognized team. Robert Morris is a small school that was a 15-seed in the 2010 tournament and almost upset Villanova in the first round before falling in overtime. Of course, both teams have changed since then, losing seniors and bringing in freshmen, but the expectation was for a blowout in favour of the home team.

But Robert Morris kept things close early on, taking an 18-17 lead after sinking two technicals awarded when Huggins blew a gasket after a controversial call. But it was apparent that they were unable to make any consistent penetration into the paint as they were launching mostly 3-point attempts, the vast majority of which missed. Still, WVU wasn't able to capitalize and entered the half up just 32-28.

The second half began with RMU sinking a trey to make it a one-point game. On the ensuing inbounds play, all 4 Mountaineers went upcourt, which meant that there was no one to take the inbounds pass. Huggins called timeout and immediately substituted all 5 players, essentially putting his bench on the floor with just a one-point lead. That was the turning point - the bench, led by Deniz Kilicli from Turkey (sinking a basket above), started to make shots and prevent the Colonials from sinking anything.

WVU went on a 23-4 run to blow the game wide open. The last 10 minutes were essentially garbage time as the Mountaineers cruised to a 82-49 win with Kilicli leading the way with 14 points.

40-8 run in 14:05

The final stats showed that out of RMU's 57 attempts, 27 were from 3-point land. Of those, only 6 were made, and naturally WVU had the rebounding advantage 48-25. This was not a particularly good game, but it was interesting to see how the starters lackadaisical attitude was punished by immediate benching, and the reserves came on to take control.


Another Mountaineer player is Jerry West's son Jonnie, seen sinking a 3-pointer below.

Like all college teams there was the traditional band (below) and cheerleaders but WVU has taken a page from the pros and also adopted a dance team, which I found a bit strange. I always thought cheerleaders were enough, but the dancers performed during timeouts, adding a new dimension to the proceedings.

I love the dichotomy between big-time college sports and small-time college life in the US. Despite WVU being a nationally known team, the Coliseum is still mostly used for campus athletics, a point made clear by a sign on one of the doors that read "PE 104 cancelled today, tournament begins Monday".

Next Up

A short drive north to Pittsburgh where I will see the new Consol Energy Center as well as the Leafs taking on the Penguins. It should be the highlight of the trip so check back tomorrow for an update.



1 comment:

  1. Sean,

    That place looks great on the inside. I went to Morgantown in 2007 to see football which was a unforgetable experience. I parked the car at the arena and took a shuttle bus to the football stadium. I was saying to myself I need to come back some day to see a basketball game. Now after reading about your visit, I'm even more motivated to get back to my "Country Home". Looking forward to seeing you at the Winter Classic on New Year's Day. In the meantime, Safe travels.