The Times West Virginian

Bob Herzel

March 27, 2014

LSU called in the Marines vs WVU

MORGANTOWN — West Virginia University’s women’s basketball team had LSU beaten Tuesday night.

Fact is, the Mountaineers had them down by nine points in the second half, by seven with just 5 minutes to play.

They had beaten back the home court advantage, the familiarity with the floor and the baskets and the shooting background at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center; beaten down LSU’s ability to avoid any travel, to sleep in their own beds, even playing in front of friends and family, although they couldn’t have had very many friends or very big families considering the attendance for the second-round game of the NCAA Tournament drew only 2,186 fans.

That, of course, makes you wonder why the hell they were awarded a situation that allowed them to be at home while the No. 2 seed was forced to play on their doorstep, but that’s an issue the NCAA has already addressed and will change next season.

The fact is, WVU had beaten everything and everyone it had to beat.

And then the United States Marine Corps came to LSU’s rescue.

The Marines?

From the halls of Montezuma, to the shores of Tripoli …

Those Marines?

Yes, those Marines. The ones they make movies like “Battle Cry” and “Flying Leathernecks” and “Guadalcanal Diary” about.

It’s hard to beat John Wayne, Clint Eastwood and Randolph Scott.

Now you may wonder how Mike Carey and his ladies found themselves going up against the United States Marine Corps, but it is exactly what happened, as revealed by star LSU forward Theresa Plaisance following the Bayou Tigers’ 76-67, come-from-behind victory won in the closing minutes, the time of the game that normally belongs to the Mountaineers.

“It started earlier in the season,” she began, about to tell a story that says a lot about what makes a team and winner.

“We worked with the Marines and went through their obstacle course one time,” she continued.

The Marines obstacle course is not a walk in the park. It takes a lot out of you, and you have to put a lot into it.

“We were all dead tired after that,” she said.

Tired, but proud they had made it.

“Then they sprung on us that we had to go through the entire obstacle course again,” she said.

One can only imagine the mumbling and grumbling, but something very strange happened.

“Our times the second time through were better than our first time because we dug deep and we just had that extra effort in us,” Plaisance explained.

It was the very attitude, the very same situation they had faced when WVU was burying them with time running down.

“We just didn’t want to give it up, and it was on our home court and our home crowd really pulled us through, as well,” she said.

The victory, of course, was not only manufactured by LSU, for WVU certainly offered it a helping hand, going away from what worked while taking control of the game. They stopped feeding the basketball to senior center Asya Bussie, who had become a second-half beast in favor of crazy, wild 3-point shots.

They let LSU take full control of the boards, the final rebounding margin being 55-40.

“I told our players for two days the game is going to be won or lost in the paint,” Carey said. “You can’t give up 24 offensive rebounds. We quit getting the ball inside, and we had it going in the second half, got the lead and quit going inside.”

Why did this happen? No one really had an answer, even though they recognized that it had happened.

“I think we lost our focus,” Bussie said. “We weren’t defending the way we were and not executing the way we were to get into the game. I just think down the stretch we didn’t do the things we were supposed to do.”

The problem was all of that and a little more. It was a matchup problem.

They had no one to take John Wayne.

Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.

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