The Times West Virginian

Bob Herzel

March 25, 2013

HERTZEL COLUMN- Delle Donne better than BU’s Griner

MORGANTOWN — There were many questions, almost too many, swishing around within an inquiring mind as Yaya Dunning walked slowly from the floor of the Carpenter Arena on the University of Delaware campus having fouled out of her final collegiate game, a 66-53 loss in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, to answer.

The first, perhaps, was the easiest to answer and that was whether Baylor’s Brittney Griner, who is everyone’s college basketball’s player of the year, was a better basketball player than the Blue Hens’ Elena Delle Donne, who had just finished scoring 33 points against the Mountaineers.

The answer, quite simply, is that Griner is better at being tall, Delle Donne at playing basketball.

That is to take nothing away from Griner, who is what she is, which is an agile, talented young lady who happens to stand 6-8 in a game where 6-5 is considered tall. She uses her greatest asset as no one else ever has been able to do.

Delle Donne, on the other hand, is big at 6-5, but she does a little bit of everything that smaller, more agile players do while using her height and adding in a whole lot of scoring.

If one were to look at one moment in a terribly disappointing afternoon in which WVU blew a seven-point halftime lead to show just what Delle Donne is made of, it would be the way she blocked a close-in shot under the basket, knocking the ball out of bounds, then proceeded to steal the inbounds pass, following that up not much later with a basket and a foul.

With that question having been answered rather easily after having seen both players in action, there came a tougher question, and that was whether Delaware, and not West Virginia, would be advancing in this tournament if Mike Carey were not the most snake-bitten coach in America.

Was Delaware better, really, than the team Carey thought he would have on the floor, better than a team with both Yaya Dunning and Aysa Bussie playing down deep, with Akilah Bethel giving him time at an off-guard position and with Jess Harlee, a shutdown defender, guarding Delle Donne 1-on-1 as it should have been?

Many teams cannot survive one knee injury to a key player. Carey tried to survive three of them, one two days into practice to Bussie, his best player, and one a couple of games from the end of the season to the emotional heart and soul of the team in Harlee.

“First of all, I am proud of our players,” Carey said, beginning his post-game press conference. “With all the injuries and all the stuff going on, a lot of people would probably think I was in there yelling at them, but I wouldn’t. I was in there praising them.”

He understood the odds he was bucking.

Bussie’s absence cannot be underestimated, for she not only would have given WVU a pair of inside players, which would have taken all kinds of heat off the inconsistent outside shooting on this team, beefed up the rebounding and inside defense, but it also would have given Carey a chance to alternate  his big players to give them rest and maybe keep them out of the foul trouble that Dunning seemed to be in all season.

And then there was the question that jumps out at you about whether or not Delaware would have been able to sustain its second-half rally if it didn’t have a sold out — and “souled” out — home crowd behind it, providing energy and encouragement.

The NCAA allows teams to play at home in its tournament as a financial consideration, but how much of a disadvantage has WVU found itself at playing against the home team two of the last three years at Baylor and Delaware?

How much did this matter? Delle Donne was asked after the game and her response will give you some idea of just how wrong this is.

“This was incredible. I wish we could play the whole entire tournament here,” she said.

Not only that but in each of those three years they wound up within the first two rounds facing a superstar player, Griner at Baylor, Delle Donne at Delaware and Nnemkadi Ogwumike against Stanford. Griner scored 30, Ogwumike 16 and Delle Donne had her 33 with seven rebounds, two assists and four blocks.

Email Bob Hertzel at bhertzel@hotmail.com or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.

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Bob Herzel
  • Bussie looks forward to WNBA

    On Tuesday, the weather turned cold, the wind blew and amongst the raindrops that fell a few snowflakes fluttered quietly to Earth.
    It was as if it was a celebration of Asya Bussie being drafted on Monday night by the Minnesota Lynx, champions of the WNBA, with the third selection of the second round, the 15th overall pick of the draft.

    April 16, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: Jackie Robinson’s impact extends beyond baseball

    It is Jackie Robinson Day as I sit here writing this today, and I feel as though I am doing it in a world gone mad.
    Every player in Major League Baseball wore No. 42 on Tuesday in honor of Jackie Robinson, the man who took racism’s best shot and integrated the game that was known then as the National Pastime even though it was as white a Ku Klux Klan robe.

    April 16, 2014

  • Gyorko, Padres agree to extension

    Jedd Gyorko, who hasn’t hit much of anything with a .178 start on this season, hit the jackpot on Monday, signing a six-year contract extension with the San Diego Padres for $35 million with a one-year club option at $13 million.

    April 15, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN- Spring game showed defense has improved

    From Dana Holgorsen’s viewpoint, which was standing right behind the offense, West Virginia’s Gold-Blue Spring Game on Saturday was a rousing success for it showed very little of what the Mountaineers will be in this coming season, probably not even showcasing the man who will direct the offense in the quarterback position.

    April 15, 2014

  • WVU signs guard; Adrian arrested for DUI

    There was something good and something bad for West Virginia men’s basketball coach Bob Huggins this past weekend as Kansas junior college player Tarik Phillip committed to play for the Mountaineers but rising sophomore Nathan Adrian was charged with Under 21 DUI after he was stopped at 1:20 a.m. Sunday for an expired registration sticker.

    April 15, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN- Garrison still proving he can carry the ball

    The running back raves from the West Virginia coaching this spring have been directly mostly toward Wendell Smallwood, and rest assured he earned every one of them with his versatility, but it was a reborn running back who well may have taken the biggest jump up the depth chart.

    April 14, 2014

  • WVU baseball drops seventh straight game

    One’s athletic skills are tested on a daily basis but every so often other aspects of an athlete’s makeup are tested, often far more important aspects in the game of life.

    April 14, 2014

  • Gold-Blue Game answers few questions at quarterback

    Dana Holgorsen finds himself in a quarterback quandary.
    He’s looking to have one quarterback and has five of them as spring practice ends, and nothing about the spring session has done anything to straighten out the situation.

    April 13, 2014

  • Moore ‘back at home’ under center

    There are a couple of ways to look at what Logan Moore did this spring after being moved back to quarterback and given a chance to compete for what is a wide open job, as wide open at the end of the spring as it was coming in.
    The first is to say that he didn’t wow Dana Holgorsen to the point that he’s willing to say he’s the leader going into summer drills, but that would be shortsighted considering from where Moore came.

    April 13, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: WVU punter turns heads at linebacker

    They call him “Huey the Punter.”
    His real name is Houstin Syvertson. His real position is not punter. Not anymore, anyway.
    To be honest, until Saturday’s spring game, not many people following West Virginia football knew the name or the nickname. They know it now.

    April 13, 2014

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