MORGANTOWN — Sometimes the colors on the jersey of the team you are rooting for matter.
In West Virginia, that’s Old Gold and Blue.
And when they lose a heartbreaker against, of all teams a Mountaineer really hates to lose to, Texas, the pain digs deeper.
What’s more, lose a game to Texas you should have won, a game you lost, 72-70, on 3-point shot from the corner with just under 2 seconds to play, and your tears feel like acid rain rolling down your cheeks.
Except somehow, it wasn’t that way Saturday afternoon at the Coliseum for the story within the story, the story of the man who made the winning basket, was too heartwarming a story to simply allow you to take as another dagger in the heart.
See, a couple of years back, Andrew Jones wasn’t thinking about making heart-stopping 3s from the corner to win basketball games.
He was just thinking about keeping his heart from stopping at all.
Here he was a budding star college athlete who one day, looking a doctor in the eye as he would have looked his coach Shaka Smart in the midst of a late game time out, he was told he had acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
At any age that’s tough to take, but he was 20.
He’d just overcome a broken wrist and thought he simply was being bothered by the flu when the test results came back.
It was devastating to the Texas program.
“He’s come so far. I don’t know a lot of guys that would be able to do what he did from the standpoint of scraping and clawing his way back,” Smart said. “The one thing that is just so impressive about Andrew from the beginning is, after he was diagnosed, he kept saying, ‘I’m going to come back and play. I’m going to come back and play.’ I think the rest of us were just like, ‘We’ll be happy if we can just get you back healthy. Forget playing right now’.”
For almost two years he underwent chemotherapy. A month into the treatment it had checked the disease but he had to continue on an IV treatment and even now remains on a daily pill, a regimen that will last five years.
Think of the journey and how hard he had to fight, how he had to create a mental medicine within himself to keep going, to push back to the point he could play guard on the nation’s No. 4 basketball team.
Even before Jones hit his game-winning shot, this had been a magical day for him because in the first half, he hit a shot that gave him 1,000 points for a career few thought they’d ever see him recover.
The final segment seemed to be heaven sent if you wore burnt orange or a telegram from hell if you wore that gold and blue, for Jones never should have gotten a look at winning the game on that shot.
WVU had led by eight points with 11 minutes to go but basketball being a game of ebbs and flows saw Texas start scratching away.
Plays, obviously, are magnified the later and closer a game gets, but each basket counts two or three points no matter when it occurs, each defensive play blown is really no more damaging early than late.
So while the tendency is to lay blame in this one on WVU players missing some late free throws or making bad decisions down the stretch, that tells only part of the story.
True, Emmitt Matthews missed two free throws that would have iced it. True, even after getting the offensive rebound, he made another mistake by not taking the ball outside and making the foul, instead trying to go back up.
But there has to be some sympathy with that cup of tea.
“We all would’ve liked for him to do that but the reality he is going to dribble out and they are going to foul him out there. A few more seconds off the clock but it won’t end the game,” said WVU coach Bob Huggins.
Sometimes in sports it’s simply a matter of kismet, of fate, of destiny.
Sometimes good things happen to people who grind it out the way Jones did through something none of us really would ever want to experience.
Did it hurt WVU?
“Real tough. To have the lead almost the whole game and give it up like that ... it’s just a real tough one,” said Miles “Deuce” McBride. “We’ll think about it today, tonight and tomorrow and we’ll move on.”
See, there are games where some things are fated to happen and this was one of them.
This was Andrew Jones’ day.
He was the only Texas player to score a 3-point goal and his last of four of them was the only 3-point goal in the second half.
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