By Bob Hertzel
For the Times West Virginian
As someone who has reached the stage of life where my fondest possessions are my memories, I would like to offer some advice to West Virginia University’s women’s basketball team today, for they surely are having trouble believing or understanding that.
They are far too much engaged in the present to understand that what they will take with them through life are not the disappointments such as the one they suffered in Baton Rouge, La., on Tuesday night, having what they expected to be a deep run into the NCAA Tournament cut short by LSU.
True, it was nightmare in real time … a game they should have won and didn’t.
“We felt like we gave one away here today,” their coach, Mike Carey, would say in the haze of defeat.
And they did, but that is not what they will take with them when they gather together again in 10 years, 20 years and beyond.
This defeat will slip into a black hole, while the wonderful memories of college life and college basketball will remain with them.
Will they all take lessons from the defeat? Certainly they will.
The lessons will become a part of them and make them better at the games they play and the lives they live, but they will not bring back with them the shot that got away or the ball they dribbled off their knee or the rebound they simply let LSU take away.
It will come back in general terms, something pushing them to stay with what is working as they failed to do on Tuesday night or to not always take the wide-open shot life offers when the chance of success might be better if you show a little patience.
Slowly, though, the pain of the evening will ease and normalcy will return to their lives. They will head off on their own journeys after spending four or five years together, years in which they grew from high school girls to young ladies, where they developed as basketball players and as people.
Why remember one loss when there are 30 wins to recall and the post-game celebrations that went with them?
Why recall blowing a lead late when there were so many games during the season in which they came from behind to win games? Certainly, they proved themselves many times over to be of strong character in pulling off such victories.
Why would a loss on LSU’s home court outlive the memory of beating unbeatable Baylor on its, a court Baylor had not lost a Big 12 game in more than two years, the site of 35 consecutive victories.
Short term, rest assured, what transpired on Tuesday night will gnaw away at senior Christal Caldwell, a season-long hero on this Mountaineer team, for she did hit only 3 of 19 shots in this game and did, down the stretch, really have her problems, missing five straight shots in the last four minutes including an ugly air ball.
But somehow, in the future, the talk will turn to the career-high 26 points she had scored on 10-of-16 shooting in the first-round game, about how she scored consecutive baskets to change the flow of that game and give them the chance to go against the Bayou Tigers.
Deep down, she understood that as she talked about her feelings at the moment, as she walked into the locker room knowing her career had just ended.
“It hate it,” she said. “Just to know that we lost the game — you’re going to lose some ball games, but I know just deep down in my heart that we did not play our best game and we did not do some of the things I’ve seen us do all year long that I know we can do, and just to go out like that, it really hurts.
“But,” she continued, “at the same time we’ve done really well this year, and we’ve had some great accomplishments, so you can’t get down on yourself too much. Right now it’s still fresh, and it hurts.”
And Asya Bussie? She will not recall foul trouble in that opener which Caldwell took charge of, the memories of her managing just 3 points there.
They will be exchanged for her magnificent second half in the LSU game, of how she almost singlehandedly won the game inside, putting both of LSU’s big players on the bench for an extended period of time as she scored 19 second-half points.
That performance alone made all the work she had put in to come back from knee surgery that had cost her the previous year worthwhile, although at the time that could not have been on her mind for she was still thinking in the present, and the present was nothing less than an ugly defeat.
Bussie, like Caldwell, understood the pain as a momentary thing, a passing moment that eventually will be overpowered by the many accomplishments that led to the moment.
“This game really hurts,” she said. “We definitely didn’t want to lose like this. We planned on going a lot further than this. But regardless I’m really proud of the team and everything we’ve accomplished this year.”
And that, really, is the what they will take forward with them.
Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.