By Bob Hertzel
For the Times West Virginian
It was a strange enough feeling for Asya Bussie, standing there for the national anthem in the Coliseum before a game she was about to play and West Virginia was about to win, 68-58.
After all, she had done that really only once in more than a year, that being the season-opening game against Ohio State.
Last year was a lost year, one she sat out healing a knee injury.
So there she stood, the carpet already having been rolled out, the anthem playing and the opponents, a good Virginia team that had won three of its first four games, standing at attention.
Bussie took a look around the arena and suddenly stopped to focus on a tall man standing not far from the West Virginia bench, a familiar face, but one that was supposed to have been at Xavier University in New Orleans.
Her brother, very much a look-alike, had snuck into town.
Man, she was happy — and ready to put on a show.
Maybe too happy, for two minutes into the game she possessed two fouls — “stupid fouls,” she would call them — and was back on the bench, where she would remain until halftime.
WVU played fine without her, leading throughout that half, the biggest lead at 14 points but leading only by seven at halftime.
She was reinserted in the second half, immediately made her presence felt with a basket, but it wasn’t long before a lady named Ataira Franklin dropped in a couple of 3s to ignite a run that put the score at 49-48, with Virginia actually shooting a pair of free throws for the lead, free throws the Cavaliers would miss.
WVU coach Mike Carey took a timeout here for a very specific reason.
“I had to take a timeout to introduce them to Asya Bussie,” Carey said. “They seemed to forget she was on the team.”
Indeed, Virginia was gathering a trio of players around Bussie and WVU had felt it needed to gun from the outside, forgetting they are a team that must play from the inside out. If they get her the ball and the defense collapses, she can kick it out ... and does.
And if it doesn’t collapse, she scores inside.
This time they went to work.
Bussie hit a free throw, then a basket on a nifty feed from Brooke Hampton, then grabbed a rebound off a missed free throw by Linda Stepney, was fouled and scored two free throws, a rare sight on a night she went 4 of 11 from the line, but that got the lead back up to 7 and it would grow to 14 again and never really be challenged.
Bussie finished with a double-double playing just two minutes in the first half but never coming out in the second half, adding 10 rebounds to her 14 points. She went 5 for 7 from the field and now has made 21 of her last 26 shots since the loss in the opening game against Ohio State.
The triple teams, apparently, haven’t really bothered her.
“I have to get used to them,” she said. “They are going to happen all season. I just can’t pick up two fouls like that.”
West Virginia is off until Saturday at Youngstown State.
Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.