MORGANTOWN — Something seemed a little vaguely familiar about the trio of officials working the WVU-Oklahoma game Saturday at the Coliseum.
Sure, it was the usual three-man crew working 14th-ranked West Virginia University’s game against No. 12 Oklahoma.
But it was more than that.
As I watched Gary Maxwell, Keith Kimble and Jeb Hartness officiate the Big 12 contest, there were some noticeable nuances and recognizable gestures. The thought that I had seen these guys somewhere before kept nagging at me.
Then it happened.
The veteran Hartness called a charging foul by flashing his signature signal of placing the palm of his left hand on the back of his head. What makes that unusual is most officials are right-handed and use that hand to signal a charging violation.
That’s when I suddenly realized where I’d seen this crew before.
The trio had officiated Marshall’s 107-79 victory over Middle Tennessee on Friday night at the Cam Henderson Center in Huntington.
One night in Huntington, the next in Morgantown. What a great gig.
The trio obviously found “Almost Heaven” in West Virginia and decided to make a weekend out of it.
Who can blame them?
After all, they collected not one, but two paychecks.
Nobody can accuse Hartness, Kimble and Maxwell of being “homers,” however. Although they officiated a blowout victory at Marshall on Friday, they also worked WVU’s huge 91-90 double-overtime loss to the Sooners here on Saturday.
So, the home teams went 1-1.
The personal fouls, however, did favor the Wild, Wonderful, West Virginia schools. Marshall was whistled for 10 fouls while the Blue Raiders were assessed 15. Then, at WVU, the Mountaineers were assessed 14 personals while the Sooners were called for 19 fouls.
The officiating didn’t win or lose either game. The players and coaches were responsible for that.
Perhaps that’s why officiating never was mentioned during WVU’s postgame Zoom media conference. Instead, the players took ownership of the hard-fought defeat.
“It really burns,” said point guard Deuce McBride, who finished with 19 points, eight assists and seven rebounds. “This is the only Big 12 team we hadn’t beaten [WVU also lost to the Sooners 75-71 on Jan. 2]. We had too many chances we didn’t take advantage of.”
Shooting guard Sean McNeil echoed McBride’s remarks.
“We were trying to attack,” said the junior after scoring 21 points on 7-of-14 shooting, including 5 for 10 on 3-pointers. “We had trouble getting the ball inside and finishing at the rim.”
If that sounded like McNeil was referring to 6-foot-10 Derek Culver, in truth, he wasn’t.
“All of us,” emphasized McNeil, referring to finishing at the rim.
Culver did indeed attempt WVU’s last two shots in the defeat. His first shot was blocked by an Oklahoma defender and bounced back to Culver for a second miss.
For the day, the junior center scored 29 points on 13-of-23 shooting and grabbed 14 rebounds.
But Oklahoma star guard Austin Reaves countered with 28 points, nine rebounds and seven assists. It was Reaves’ jumper with 26 seconds remaining that was the game-winning shot.
“We struggled to guard Reaves,” said McNeil.
Indeed, the Mountaineers did.
But, all in all, Maxwell, Kimble and Hartness had an enjoyable weekend.