Mountaineer Memories: Top 10 WVU Coliseum contests
The WVU Coliseum, the home of West Virginia basketball, will celebrate its 50th birthday on Dec. 1, 2020.
Over the course of those 50 years, the spaceship-shaped building on Jerry West Boulevard, which was constructed at a cost of $10.4 million, has seen some great games. It’s seen thrilling finishes, boisterous crowds, special talent and national championship teams.
But which games stand out above the rest?
With a head full of memories, WVUStats.com, Google and plenty of literature, I recently sat down to try to rank the Top 10 games in the history of the building that once served as my home away from home during my college days as I went to class, played racketball, ate lunch and, of course, attended nearly every home game.
The criteria was hard to define. I wasn’t necessarily looking for the most significant win, the biggest crowd, the most dramatic finish or the most memorable storyline. Instead, I tried to combine all of the above and simply identify that games that those in attendance will never forget. I’m sure my list won’t exactly match yours, but hopefully it will be enough to rekindle some memories and spark some debate about the history of one of the most unique home courts in all of college basketball.
10. Kansas 2015 – Most will remember the meeting between the No. 23 Mountaineers and the eighth-ranked Jayhawks on Feb. 16, 2015, from the television, as barely 7,000 fans managed to make their way into the Coliseum that night thanks to a winter storm that made getting to Morgantown almost impossible. But no matter where Mountaineer fans were watching, they were treated to a classic. Down 61-60 with less than 10 clicks on the clock, point guard Juwan Staten put the game in his own hands, driving the length of the court and connecting on a left-handed layup with four seconds remaining to put the Mountaineers ahead by a single point. The Jayhawks threw the ball the length of the court, but Perry Ellis couldn’t connect on the other end, and WVU fans stormed the court to celebrate the 20th victory of the season.
9. UCLA 2007 – No, neither John Wooden nor Kareem Abdul-Jabbar were in Morgantown on Feb. 10, 2007 when UCLA visited the Coliseum, but the mystique of the program played a big part in bringing 14,160 fans to the game between an 18-5 WVU team looking for national respect and a UCLA club ranked No. 2 in the country. John Beilein’s Mountaineers made sure none of them headed home disappointed. WVU opened up a 10-point halftime advantage and never let the Bruins step back through the door on the way to a 70-65 victory that sent a message that Beilein’s Boys were indeed contenders. Alex Ruoff scored 18 points, and Frank Young added 14 as a capacity crowd celebrated a 15-1 home record.
8. Baylor 2017 – Not much matches knocking the king from the throne, and that’s what the Mountaineers were able to accomplish on Jan. 10, 2017, and it wasn’t even close. No. 10 WVU got a career-high 22 points from Nate Adrian and forced Baylor into a season-high 29 turnovers on the way to a 89-68 thumping of the No. 1 Bears, who had held the top ranking for all of one day before coming to Morgantown. In handing Baylor its first loss of the season, Huggins’ Mountaineers improved to 14-2. It was the second WVU win over a No. 1 team in as many seasons, and fans stormed the court in celebration.
7. Pitt 1982 – WVU had won 22 straight and had climbed from out of the national rankings on Feb. 1 to No. 6 in the nation on Feb. 24, 1982, when its longest rival, Pitt, visited the Coliseum. A record crowd of 16,704 – a high mark that still stands today – came out to see if Gale Catlett’s club could continue the streak against the Panthers, and behind star guard Greg Jones, West Virginia did just that. WVU outscored the visitors from the North 46-34 in the opening half en route to an 82-77 victory. Five Mountaineers finished in double figures in front of the raucous crowd, led by 22 from Jones, a junior who scored his 1,000th career point in the contest.
6. Ohio State 2010 – The meeting between WVU and Ohio State on Jan. 23, 2010, will be remembered as much for what happened at halftime as what happened in regulation play. A crowd of 15,033 came out to see Rod Hundley’s No. 33 retired forever, and at the conclusion of the ceremony, “Hot Rod” put on one final show, responding to requests from the crowd for one last hook shot, which found the cylinder as the fans exploded. Hundley’s heroics helped spark some energy into the No. 11 Mountaineers, who trailed 40-28 at the break, and Huggins’ club stormed back as Da’Sean Butler scored 16 of his 21 points in the second half to lead WVU to a 71-65 victory.
5. Notre Dame 1977 – One of the first signature victories in the history of the Coliseum came on Feb. 19, 1977, when 17th-ranked Notre Dame came to Morgantown to face Joedy Gardner’s Mountaineers. Students stormed through the gates to get into the game an hour before gates were supposed to open, and a capacity crowd of more than 14,000 created havoc for Digger Phelps and his Irish. WVU built up a 13-point halftime lead and withstood every Notre Dame run, sending an unhappy Phelps back to the locker room without even a handshake. The 81-68 Mountaineer victory was paced by a 21-point, 15-rebound effort from Mo Robinson and a young guard named Bob Huggins recorded 14 points and a pair of steals.
4. Kansas 2016 – Snow again played a big part in the Jan. 12, 2016, WVU-KU meeting. This time, a late-afternoon storm put Morgantown traffic in a gridlock, and many fans who were already in town to see the No. 11 Mountaineers take on the top-ranked Jayhawks couldn’t make it into the Coliseum for the tip. Though the crowd, which eventually grew to 12,097, started slow, WVU didn’t. Using a relentless defensive effort that eventually forced 22 KU turnovers, the Mountaineers built up a 37-29 halftime lead and were never really threatened in the second half on their way to a 74-63 victory and a 15-1 start, the best in 34 years. Jaysean Paige scored 26 points and the big man in the paint, Devin Williams, finished with 17 points and 12 rebounds. It was the first win over a No. 1 team for the Mountaineers in 33 years.
3. Georgetown 1995 – In a WVU publication, you wouldn’t expect to find a Mountaineer loss high on the list, but those who were around for West Virginia’s first game as a member of the Big East Conference will tell you that the Dec. 2, 1995, battle between the Mountaineers and Georgetown was something special. A crowd of 15,193 came out to witness a new era in WVU basketball, as well as to see Allen Iverson and the No. 6 Hoyas in person. Catlett’s club tried its best to make the day a perfect one, jumping out to a 40-32 halftime lead and allowing the capacity crowd to believe, but Georgetown wouldn’t go away. John Thompson’s Hoyas forced an extra period and eventually claimed an 86-83 victory. Seldon Jefferson scored 26 points to keep pace with Iverson and Victor Page, who scored 22 each. Gordon Malone added 23 points and 12 rebounds for the Mountaineers, sending a message that WVU was ready for this new level of basketball and planned on competing.
2. UConn 1998 – Dick Vitale was in town holding sound-alike contests before the game. The seats were filled hours before tipoff and the energy inside the Coliseum was at a rare level as No. 6 UConn came to town to take on No. 16 WVU on ESPN. A crowd of 15,167 turned out to watch it, and they were treated to something special. Greg Jones – the other Greg Jones to Mountaineer fans who were around to see the original one in the early ‘80s – scored 18 points and Brett Solheim posted a double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds as Catlett’s club proved is was a legitimate Big East contender with a dominating 80-62 win. When the buzzer sounded, fans stormed the court to celebrate with Vitale, and WVU won its 20th game to virtually punch its ticket to the NCAA Tournament.
1. UNLV 1983 – It’s now been 37 years, so many younger Mountaineer fans know little about WVU’s win over the Runnin’ Rebels from UNLV on Feb. 27, 1983, but those who were around seem to all agree that there hasn’t been anything quite like it since. WVU had a chance to face the No. 1 team in the land, coached by legendary Jerry Tarkanian. West Virginia students camped outside for days to try to get the best seats to the contest, which aired live on CBS. Eventually 15,638 fans made it in, and the atmosphere was unmatched. Gale Catlett’s team wasn’t going to spoil it for the home fans. Greg Jones scored 32 points, and Tim Kearney posted a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds to hand Catlett his 100th career win at West Virginia. Fans stormed the court and players cut down the nets, as WVU defeated a top-ranked team for the first time since 1966.
Story by Cam Huffman of the Blue & Gold News