The Times West Virginian

Bob Herzel

January 2, 2014

HERTZEL COLUMN- WVU women will contend in the Big 12

MORGANTOWN — Time does strange things, often distorting our view of events almost as if we were looking into a fun house mirror.

Consider West Virginia University’s women’s basketball team.

A year ago, it was about to enter play in the Big 12 but did so with little or no hope of winning the conference in its first season as a member school.

Part of the reason was that Brittney Griner was still at Baylor, and she was the best player in the nation on what most figured was the best team in the nation.

But WVU’s inward view of itself was dark, for its best player, Asya Bussie, had torn the inner workings of a knee in practice and required surgery which would put her out for the entire year.

It was a crushing blow, or so it seemed at that moment.

Fast forward a year now, and take a look into that very same mirror.

The injury to Bussie, rather than a crushing blow, is looked upon now as a blessing.

Her knee is healed, and she is the leader of a West Virginia team that has won 11 consecutive games as it enters Big 12 play.

Griner? She has gone wherever it is the great women basketball players go after college, leaving the race wide open in the Big 12.

And West Virginia, which would have been without Bussie had she played out a hopeless season last year, now believes it is among four or five teams that can win the Big 12.

It is a belief that might not be there if Bussie wasn’t there.

“We only had to lose one senior, so this year we go into the second year of the Big 12 with five seniors and a lot of experience. Me sitting out last year worked out and left us with an experienced team,” Bussie said before the Mountaineers took off for their opening game of what coach Mike Carey is calling “the second season” at Kansas.

Bussie brings a strong inside offensive game to WVU.

More important, considering the style of play that Carey emphasizes, Bussie is a defensive force.

“I’ve said it since Asya Bussie has been here; she’s probably the best defensive center in the country,” he said. “That being said, we don’t want to get her in foul trouble. I told her to play position defense, but if they beat you, just let them go. We can’t afford to get you in foul trouble early in the game. She’s smart enough to do that. She’s a veteran.”

She smart enough, in part, because she got to view the game from a different perspective last year, not as a participant but as someone watching from the bench and studying what goes into being a winning player on a winning team.

She also is a team leader. She would have to be the way she worked to get herself back onto the court, determined to make something of her final year.

She is the focal point of the team, the hub around which everything else spins, and this year that is a group of talented, veteran players who can make things happen.

“We will win by defense. We will win by rebounding. We’re scoring a few more points now than we have in the past, and hopefully we’re going to be able to continue to do that,” Carey said.

The idea that this team is scoring more points is important for it always really did play defense.

This season it has made some adjustments, beginning with Bussie drawing defensive attention inside, that had made a big difference.

Carey has freely used both point guards – Linda Stepney and Brooke Hampton – and they are doing a solid job of setting up Christal Caldwell, Bria Holmes and Taylor Palmer, all double-figure scorers.

With Averee Fields also coming on the past couple of games as a scorer, WVU is going to be difficult to defend. Non-conference teams have sagged on Bussie or double- or triple-teamed her, but it’s expected the more talented Big 12 teams will not do nearly as much of that.

“There shouldn’t be as many double teams,” Bussie said. “In practice I’ve been working on posting up against Lanay (Montgomery). She’s tall. There’s a lot of tall players in the Big 12. I worked on a lot of one-on-one moves.”

Everything is in place for WVU to make a run. It should make it a most interesting season.

Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.

1
Text Only
Bob Herzel
  • HERTZEL COLUMN- WVU faithful again have a reason to root against Vick

    It would be one final indignation, that’s what it would be if Michael Vick were to beat out Geno Smith and win the starting quarterback job with the New York Jets.

    April 23, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN- Luck open to WVU fans’ suggestions

    West Virginia’s fans have spoken, perhaps not verbally but nonetheless have had their voices heard, over the past few years as attendance has fallen at the Mountaineers’ football and basketball games.

    April 22, 2014

  • Mountaineers ready for slate of rivalry games

    Looking to put together a late-season run to get into the NCAA championships, West Virginia faces a pair of midweek rivalry games in a crucial five-game week coming off winning two of three games at Oklahoma.

    April 22, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN- Summer, Alabama will be used to get WVU’s mind right

    The ink had barely dried on the final reports out of West Virginia’s spring practice when thoughts turned forward toward the lazy, hazy days of late summer, days that will bring us into football season with a game that can either change the entire image of WVU football or sour it even further.

    April 21, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: Watson tees off a new century at The Greenbrier

    You knew this was going to be one of those unpredictable, memorable days when you drove into the Greenbrier Resort and headed to the Old White Golf Course and found the best parking place in the joint.
    As Bob Uecker would say, right there in the front rooooow.

    April 20, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: Under pressure, NCAA decides to change rules

    At first glance, it appears that they do not go hand-in-hand, a pair of rules changes the NCAA’s Legislative Council approved this week, sending them off for what seems to be smooth sailing toward becoming rules.

    April 18, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: WVU gymnast hopes to stick her final landing

    The reaction, one suspects, was the same as most people who see either a picture of West Virginia University gymnast Hope Sloanhoffer or meet her for the first time in person — a quick double take, maybe even stumbling over the first few words of an introduction.

    April 17, 2014

  • Bussie looks forward to WNBA

    On Tuesday, the weather turned cold, the wind blew and amongst the raindrops that fell a few snowflakes fluttered quietly to Earth.
    It was as if it was a celebration of Asya Bussie being drafted on Monday night by the Minnesota Lynx, champions of the WNBA, with the third selection of the second round, the 15th overall pick of the draft.

    April 16, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: Jackie Robinson’s impact extends beyond baseball

    It is Jackie Robinson Day as I sit here writing this today, and I feel as though I am doing it in a world gone mad.
    Every player in Major League Baseball wore No. 42 on Tuesday in honor of Jackie Robinson, the man who took racism’s best shot and integrated the game that was known then as the National Pastime even though it was as white a Ku Klux Klan robe.

    April 16, 2014

  • Gyorko, Padres agree to extension

    Jedd Gyorko, who hasn’t hit much of anything with a .178 start on this season, hit the jackpot on Monday, signing a six-year contract extension with the San Diego Padres for $35 million with a one-year club option at $13 million.

    April 15, 2014

House Ads
Featured Ads