By Bob Hertzel
For the Times West Virginian
This time West Virginia University got to do the dancing on Duquesne’s floor, but if you think coach Mike Carey was in a celebratory mood after his lady Mountaineers beat Duquesne, 88-80, at the Palumbo Center in Pittsburgh Saturday afternoon, you have another think coming.
The Mountaineers, who came out of the locker room at halftime and broke the game open with a 21-3 run and eventually built a 26-point lead with 14:40 left in the game nearly squandered it, leaving Carey to play the role of the Grinch who stole Christmas.
“Ridiculous! Ridiculous,” said Carey shortly after it ended and he had headed to the radio. “You give 80 points. Ridiculous! We better get ready for the Big 12 because we’re not close to being ready now.”
It is hard to imagine the team that came and played so well during the first six minutes of the second half to seemingly assure its 10th straight victory could have played such uninspired and uninspiring basketball the rest of the way as Duquesne battled back.
“I’m happy we won,” said Carey. “I’m not happy how we won.”
West Virginia was a hungry, angry team that traveled to Pittsburgh, a team that had lost two years in a row to the Dukes, something Carey and his team said they took personally.
“I’m tired of talking about the last two years and them dancing on our court,” star center Asya Bussie had said, echoing Carey and teammates.
While last year’s loss in Morgantown was hard to take, it was understood, coming during a tough season and with Bussie injured. But they all remembered the loss in Pittsburgh two years ago and Duquesne’s reaction.
They were upset in more ways than one.
So they came out playing hard and led by 8 at the half, 38-30, although they laxed off late in the first period.
At halftime, Carey got their attention again, lit their fire and they simply came out smoking, Averee Fields having her finest game as a Mountaineer. In 18 minutes of play she scored 15 points and was crucial during the second-half run.
Perhaps the intensity level was too high, for when Duquesne turned on the pressure and began clawing back into the game the Mountaineers really had no answer.
In fact, had they not hit their free throws far better than anyone could expect them to, 37 out of 43 for 86 percent (they were shooting 67 percent as a team entering the game) they well might have blown the entire 26-point lead.
“We just stood around feeling sorry for ourselves,” Carey said. “We’ve got to stop feeling sorry for ourselves when things aren’t going our way. We just can’t stand around pouting.”
Duquesne got it to a two-possession game toward the end at 84-80 before Brooke Hampton, who has really developed into an important player on this team even though she comes off the bench, canned a pair of free throws to make it 86-80 with 8.2 seconds left, then came up with a steal that led to the final basket.
Asya Bussie recorded a double-double with 17 points on her second consecutive 7-for-8 shooting game with 11 rebounds, and Linda Stepney joined Fields, Bussie and Taylor Palmer in double figures with 11 points.
WVU’s Christmas break will be short, Carey wanting them back to practice on Dec. 26.
“I told all the elves to be here,” he said. “Practice after Christmas is tough. They’d always like a few more days off for Christmas.”
But WVU hosts Elon at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 29, then opens Big 12 play at Kansas on Jan. 2.
Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.