The Times West Virginian

February 23, 2012

HERTZEL COLUMN: Notre Dame never kind to Mountaineers

By Bob Hertzel
Times West Virginian

MORGANTOWN — Move over, Chris Moss.

Make room, Gordon Malone.

You guys have company.

Until Wednesday night, you were the poster children for the frustration West Virginia has felt at Notre Dame.

Now you have to make room for the entire 2012 basketball team, with Deniz Kilicli front and center.

This team could not have done worse had it spat upon a cheerleader as Moss did in 2001 or were found eating a hot dog by the concession stand at halftime, as Malone was in 1996.

What happened in South Bend during this game was beyond embarrassing and humiliating.

Think, for a moment, what this team was feeling like late in the game, the scoreboard already long on its way toward a final score of 71-44, as the Notre Dame faithful began chanting “N-I-T! N-I-T!”

Then, for an encore, they burst into song, singing a mocking version of “Country Roads.”

The Mountaineers couldn’t wait to let those “Country Roads” take them home. They’d had enough of this northwestern Indiana burg.

Life here has never really been good. True, West Virginia scored its first Big East road victory at Notre Dame, WVU Coach Gale Catlett beating Irish Coach John McLeod — bet you even forgot he coached the Irish — with Cyrus Jones scoring 19 points and Damion Owens 17.

But even that game had to turn into an embarrassment as Catlett banished Malone, one of the most enigmatic players ever to wear West Virginia’s blue and gold, from the game during the first half, leading to the moment of moments of finding him in a sweatsuit at halftime scoffing down a hot dog and thoroughly content with himself.

Then there was the night of Jan. 21, 2001, when Moss was ejected from the game following his second technical and completely flipped out, having to be restrained from going after the officials and spitting at the taunting fans as he left, accidently hitting a cheerleader.

A day later he apologized, saying, “I’m sorry for my behavior that occurred within the heat of competition, which caused me to overreact to a situation. This was totally out of character for me.”

He then took a leave of absence from the team to pull himself together.

Now this.

Before the game Huggins knew that Kilicli, who had to make life miserable inside for Notre Dame if the Mountaineers were to have a chance against the hottest team in the league, was suffering from a cold.

“I told him yesterday that Michael Jordan was sick one time and they didn’t think he could play and he went out and got 63. We didn’t think Da’Sean would play against Villanova and he got 43. I told Deniz, you really ought to have a heckuva game. I’m really excited that you’re sick,” he told his radio audience.

After the game, after Kilicli had made but 4 and 11 shots, he was whistling a different tune.

“You get a guy who has a cold and he acts like he’s dying of pneumonia. He’s just not very tough,” Huggins said on his post-game show.

He did not mention Kilicli by name, but considering what he said pregame he really didn’t have to.

“These guys have no grasp of reality,” Huggins continued. “No one cares you got a cold. I got a cold, no one cares. You have to fight through things. The guys at Cincinnati used to say, ‘Coach, you ain’t a wizard. You can’t give a guy a heart.’ There weren’t very many of them (he had to try to do that with), but you can’t do it.”

Now he has 48 hours before Marquette, the nation’s No. 10 team, comes to the Coliseum in what really has become the game of the season because the NCAA is rapidly slipping from WVU’s grasp.

Email Bob Hertzel at bhertzel@hotmail.com. Follow on Twitter @bhertzel.