It was sometime around noon when Ashley Powell got to the Coliseum for Saturday afternoon’s women’s basketball game against DePaul.

She was taken aback for just a second.

Could the men’s game have been changed to Saturday? No. Was there a concert? No.

So what were all those people doing there for a women’s basketball game, she wondered.

Then she remembered. This was “Pack The House” day. The combination of free or heavily discounted tickets, $1 concessions, a No. 11-ranked basketball team made the Coliseum look more like a Wal-Mart on the morning after Christmas than a basketball arena.

People everywhere, a record 8,307, most of them standing in line for the cut-price concessions, proving there’s nothing like a hot dog that you actually can get for hot dog prices instead of paying like it’s filet mignon.

All that and a pink glow made for an interesting day that had been designated “Think Pink Day” to raise awareness of breast cancer.

Normally, when you think pink it is something good:

• A baby girl

• The center of a medium rare New York strip steak

• A carnation

• The Pink Panther

Fans wore pink clothes. The Mountaineer players wore pink warmup jerseys and pink laces in their shoes. WVU coach Mike Carey, perhaps having caught a glimpse of Bob Huggins in gold suit, decided not to wear a pink suit but did have on a pink tie for the occasion.

On this day there wasn’t much good for the West Virginia coaches or players to think about as it was DePaul that was in the pink, pulling out a surprising 81-80 victory in as good a women’s basketball game as you will see.

“I feel bad we could not get a win for the fans,” Powell admitted.

In truth, the atmosphere may have worked against the Mountaineers for DePaul came in fresh and revved up after a week off and seemed to feed off the crowd as it pumped in crucial 3-point shot after 3-point shot.

At the same time, WVU seemed to wear down as DePaul dictated the pace. While the Mountaineers kept up offensively, pressuring inbounds passes and pushing the ball took a toll on the WVU women.

“Our legs were really tired,” Powell admitted. “I know I was fatigued. I even asked coach to take me out once because I felt I was hurting the team. I’ve never done that in my life.”

It wasn’t that DePaul played at a pace WVU was unaccustomed to. It was more that WVU normally dictates its own pace by its defense.

“We try choose the pace,” Powell said.

They had no choice in this one as DePaul came in with a well thought-out game plan and executed it to perfection, 14 of 30 3s and absolutely dominating the backboards by pulling in 46 rebounds, 16 of them on the offensive end that allowed them to outscore WVU on second-chance points, 19-8, in a one-point game.

Guard Deirdre Naughton had a career game, scoring 24 points, pulling down 15 rebounds with five assists and only one turnover.

“We knew with Yinka Sanni down low we had to block out, keep her off the boards and get another player in there to get the rebound. That allowed the guard to go in and get some rebounds,” Naughton explained.

You can bet DePaul knows Sanni. She grew up in Chicago and some of her happiest childhood memories were going over and playing in open gym on the DePaul court.

“I love DePaul,” she admitted. “I was 8 or so, and I’d go play against the older kids or some of the staff.”

DePaul tried hard to recruit Sanni and was on her final list, but she opted to go away from the city and come to Morgantown, where she has been front and center in the revival of women’s basketball, which reached new heights with the large crowd on Saturday.

The inability to stop DePaul on the boards and a sudden glitch in free-throw shooting, the Mountaineers hitting but 9 of 19, in the end spelled defeat for West Virginia.

“If someone had told me we’d shoot 49 percent from the floor, 50 percent with our 3s, commit just nine turnovers and lose the game I would not have believed them,” Carey said. “It boiled down to the defensive end and not blocking out on the boards.”

Still, in the final second of the game, WVU was given an unexpected last-gasp of oxygen when Powell sank a long 3 at the buzzer to cut into what seemed to be an insurmountable four-point deficit but for some inexplicable reason, Powell was challenged on the shot.

The only way WVU had a chance to win was for Powell to be fouled while making the 3, but no one ever said women basketball players in the heat of the moment are Mensa candidates.

“We blew some games earlier this year,” said DePaul Coach Doug Bruno. “Now you know why.”

Was Powell actually fouled?

“It was close,” was all Carey would say.

Powell was a little more vocal.

“Everyone else told me I was. I wouldn’t know,” she said. “In that situation, the refs are told to take the whistles out of their mouths.”

E-mail Bob Hertzel at

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