The Times West Virginian

Bob Herzel

March 26, 2014

No. 7 LSU upsets No. 2 WVU, 76-67

MORGANTOWN — They call it the Sweet 16 but for West Virginia it remains the Sour 16.

The second-seeded Mountain-eers, looking to advance to the Sweet 16 for the first time in eight journeys into the NCAA Tournament under coach Mike Carey, fell short once again as seventh-seeded LSU, taking advantage of playing on its home floor at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center before a rabid group of faithful fans and some shoddy WVU play down the stretch, won, 76-67.

Only in 1992 has WVU reached the Sweet 16 and that was before the tournament expanded from 32 to 64 teams, so the Mountaineers still have never gotten beyond the first round.

And so ended the careers of five Mountaineer seniors — center Asya Bussie, forwards Christal Caldwell and Jess Harlee and guards Taylor Palmer and Brooke Hampton — who have seen good times and bad but seemed poised to make a run at the Final Four this season until it all came unraveled.

They had gone through growing pains and the pains of three knee surgeries, watched WVU move from the Big East to the Big 12, leaving the shadow of Connecticut only to fall under the shadow of Baylor, go on to become Big 12 regular season co-champions with the Bears, set a school record with 30 victories this season as three of them — Bussie, Caldwell and Palmer — became 1,000-point scorers.

But in the end, there was nothing but the heartbreak of defeat and it came the way WVU usually wins its games, in the final four minutes.

The Mountaineers (30-5), led by Bussie, charged to a nine-point second-half lead but fell apart in those final four minutes, being outscored by LSU, 20-4.

Bussie led WVU with 21 points and eight rebounds in her final game but could not offset Danielle Ballard, who scored 22, grabbed 15 rebounds and had six assists for the Bayou Tigers.

LSU pounded the Mountaineers on the boards, grabbing 55 rebounds to 40 for WVU.

It was all uphill for the Mountaineers in a first half. They would wind up trailing, 37-35, which wasn’t bad considering the way they started.

The Mountaineers came out looking almost scared, as if trying to show why they historically have had so much trouble advancing in the NCAA Tournament.

Shanece McKinney completely dominated inside, blocking almost everything WVU threw at the basket in the first four minutes, grabbing rebounds and scoring as LSU got off to an 8-3 lead and then stretched it to 17-9, the eight point advantage being as large as it would get.

The Mountaineers were having a terrible time putting the ball in the hoop, Bria Holmes missing her first three 3s to run her string of consecutive missed treys to 14 and Christal Caldwell also was clanking everything but Carey wasn’t asking anyone to back off.

“Shooters like Bria and Christal, I don’t say a word,” Carey had said when they had trouble on Sunday. “I heard Bria saying to a couple of teammates, ‘I’m not taking a three the next game, and I said, ‘Well, you will or you’ll come out of the game.’

“I’m more, if that’s your shot, shoot it. If you miss it, you miss it. I don’t get caught up in that stuff.”

Sure enough, even though the fouls were building up against the Mountaineers and Asya Bussie spent most of the half sitting with 2, the shots started falling.

Jess Harlee, as she always does, came in and gave the Mountaineers a boost of energy and hit a couple of baskets. The lead shrank and when Holmes and Caldwell each hit their first 3s back-to-back, WVU had its first lead at 25-23.

But they just weren’t playing smart basketball as evidenced by Carey gambling and putting his point guard Linda Stepney back in the game with two fouls only to have her pick up her third in a rush. By halftime LSU had regained the lead by two points.

Holmes finished the half with 10 points and Caldwell nine while Danielle Ballard, who scored 25 points against WVU last year, was hurting the Mountaineers badly with her penetration, scoring 10.

The second half started the same way the game did with LSU scoring seven quick points to take a nine point lead, 42-33, but WVU decided if they were going to win the game they had to get Bussie involved.

And Bussie responded, quickly scoring a basket and then getting a third foul on All-SEC player Plaisance and then a third on McKinney. Bussie scored seven straight points to get the lead down to four points.

Senior Taylor Palmer then took over with a free throw and a huge 3 that tied the game at 48 but Carey knew what his game plan had to be now. After Ballard scored to give LSU a brief lead, WVU went inside twice in a row and drew Plaisance’s fourth foul and then McKinney’s fourth foul, all four free throws being made.

WVU was in front 52-50 and both of LSU’s bigs were on the bench.

LSU had no answer inside for Bussie with their big players out and she went to the free throw line over and over, hitting 7 of 8 free throws to give her 16 points, 14 of them in the second half.

 When the two LSU inside players came back in the Mountaineers stopped looking toward Bussie, even though they should have looked harder in an effort to foul them out, and the Bayou Tigers battled back so they went into the last 2:40 of the game with WVU clinging to a 65-64 lead, the Mountaineers’ last lead of the season.

Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel

 

1
Text Only
Bob Herzel
  • HERTZEL COLUMN: Must WVU defense carry offense in ’14?

    The other day the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette ran a story under the following headline:
    “In a year of change, must the Steelers’ offense carry the defense this year?”
    Reading that turned on a light.

    July 31, 2014

  • WVU takes first step today

    Perhaps the most used — and least factual — cliché in sports is as follows:
    “There’s no tomorrow.”
    Around these parts, however, tomorrow is what they are clinging to, while putting a new twist on the cliché, turning it to, “There’s no yesterday.”

    July 31, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: Big 12 provides plenty of optimism

    This past week the Big 12 held its annual media gathering in Dallas and served up a heaping portion of optimism for the 2014 season that is now upon us, West Virginia University opening its preseason practices on Thursday.
    This is a time of year when no one has lost a game, not even Charlie Weis at Kansas, and it’s a time of year when opinions are more plentiful than tattoos in an NFL locker room.

    July 27, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: WVU needs White to follow in former receivers’ footsteps

    A year ago Clint Trickett took a lot of grief as the once potent West Virginia offense came unraveled, but there is more that than meets the eye.
    The criticism was not unfounded, of course, although behind each incomplete pass there was the pain Trickett was suffering through to throw it, his rotator cuff in need of surgery.

    July 26, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: O’Toole joins long list of eccentric WVU kickers, punters

    The star of the Big 12’s annual football media day wasn’t a star at all.
    He intrigued the media far more than Bob Stoops, the coach of preseason favorite Oklahoma, and more than Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty, the preseason player of the year.

    July 25, 2014

  • WVU, N.C. State to meet in football

    Following a trend of creating non-conference games against regional opponents, West Virginia University has reached agreement with North Carolina State to play a home-and-home football series in 2018 and 2019.
    The Mountaineers are scheduled to play N.C. State in Raleigh on Sept. 15, 2018, and then play host to the Wolfpack on Sept. 14, 2019.

    July 24, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: ‘Cheating pays’ remark should draw attention

    When Bob Bowlsby, the outspoken commissioner of the Big 12, presented his opening-day picture of the future of college sports in Dallas for the annual media day gathering, his bleak comments were not unexpected.

    July 24, 2014

  • Holgorsen’s program hits turning point

    You can almost sense, as you watch West Virginia University football coach Dana Holgorsen sit before the gathered Big 12 media contingent answering questions in the Omni Hotel in Arlington, Texas, that he senses his program has reached a turning point.

    July 23, 2014

  • Big 12 Media Days Foo_time(1).jpg Trickett’s play key factor for Mountaineers’ success

     In the end, it comes down to the quarterback.
    Always has with Dana Holgorsen, always will.
    Quarterback is the offense with the West Virginia University coach. When he does well, the team wins – almost always.
    When he does poorly, the team doesn’t stand much of a chance.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Saban, family happy at Alabama

    Alabama football coach Nick Saban, whose team opens the season against West Virginia in Atlanta on Aug. 30, denied receiving or turning down this offseason an offer of $100 million to coach Texas, indicating he planned to finish his career as coach of the Crimson Tide.

    July 18, 2014

House Ads
Featured Ads