That was all Liz Repella needed to describe the performance put on by her West Virginia University teammate Madina Ali as the Mountaineer women got back on the winning track with hard-fought, 70-61 victory over Syracuse before a crowd of 3,086 fans Saturday at the Coliseum.
“Oh, WOW!” Repella said.
And if you can speak in capital letters, that’s just what she did.
It is difficult to figure out where to begin with Ali, who with Repella has emerged as the heart and soul of this 17-1 team that is ranked No. 6 in the nation … at least until the poll comes out this week.
What is “Oh, WOW!”?
It is 32 points, all of them crucial.
It is 10 rebounds.
It is two blocks.
And yes, there were five turnovers but the lady also threw in a 3-point shot, her first of the season.
“She was everywhere,” Repella said. “Rebounding, scoring.”
It was, if we may coin a word, Flowersian in scope and, the truth is, there was even more of a similarity than just the numbers.
John Flowers of the WVU men’s team had his huge game against Providence without his trademark headband.
Well, midway through this game Ali shed the rubber band she wears to hold her hair back and went au natural, so to speak, for a while.
Was this a tribute to Flowers?
“No,” she said. “It was causing a headache.”
If she thinks she had a headache, think of the headache she caused Quentin Hillsman, the Syracuse coach, who knew it wasn’t coming from his hair, considering his head is shaved as clean as an 8-ball.
“What a game by Madina,” Hillsman said. “It was a monster game.”
For Ali, the 32-point effort was a career high and her first 30-point game since high school.
Asked why it came when it did, she credited coach Mike Carey.
“Coach told us we had to go out and prove something, not only to the fans, but to ourselves,” she said. “He got into my head.”
He must have.
“Ali played hard, Hard, HARD,” Carey said.
The Mountaineers were coming off their first loss of the season in Milwaukee to Marquette and were eager to prove themselves.
“After a loss, you always want to get back on the court as soon as possible,” said Repella, who with 12 points was the only other West Virginia player in double figures.
The thing was WVU needed everything Ali could give it, for Syracuse at 13-3 coming in was a formidable opponent which was skilled and physical. Through the first half no one led by more than 5 points, the Mountaineers taking the lead at 36-35 at the intermission.
The lead seesawed back and forth in the second half until Ali made a steal at halfcourt and hit a breakaway layup and then Vanessa House canned a key 3-point shot. When Brooke Hampton followed with a huge 3 out of a timeout and then Ali hit her 3, the lead stood at 6 and the best Syracuse could do was cut it to three before Ali reached 30 points with a basket.
This was a rare performance by Ali, who while being one of the top scoring threats on the team often bypasses shots.
“I don’t want to feel selfish,” she said. “I always want to give the ball up to Liz and Sarah (Miles) because they’re the best shooters on the team.”
Not on this day.
E-mail Bob Hertzel at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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