By Bob Hertzel
For the Times West Virginian
For West Virginia University shooting guard Taylor Palmer, Friday night’s season opening 76-41 victory over UNC Wilmington was a solid start for the new season.
She scored 13 points, second highest on the floor, hit five of 10 shots, 3 of 6 from 3-point land.
There was promise there, for sure, but when you think back to last year, you realize where she goes from here is the important thing.
Facing an overmatched team from Youngstown State last year, Palmer had a career-high 33 points, hitting 12 of 23 shots, 8 of 16 from 3-point territory.
The next game, against St. Bonaventure, she scored three points in an unexpected loss, a loss that could well be hung on her offensive inability that included hitting 1 of 14 shots.
And that was how the season went for her; while she followed the loss to the Bonnies with games of 20, 18, 18, 20, 16, 10 and 16 points, she would have only eight double-figure scoring efforts in the final 25 games.
There were six games without a field goal, and it reached a low of 0 points in 25 minutes on 0-for-7 shooting against Notre Dame. The season closed as it started with the NCAA Tournament, opening the NCAAs with 18 points against Texas and then being held to three by Stanford as the Mountaineers were eliminated.
How can someone go from 33 points to three from one game to the next, four times top 20 points yet go without scoring in another game?
“I just think it is confidence,” coach Mike Carey, whose team visits Boston University at 7 p.m. today, said after the opener.
Confidence comes from making shots over and over. Carey, however, is a coach who sometimes can be quick on the trigger in criticism and he offers his criticism quite strongly.
He thinks he’s been part of cause more than the cure.
“I told Taylor, ‘Hell, don’t listen to me,’” Carey said. “Taylor will sometimes miss four shots in a row and I’ll say, ‘If you make one once in a while, that’s not against the rules.’ So I tell her, don’t pay no attention, just play. When I’m on your (rear), just play. Score. She’s a scorer. We need her to score to take some pressure off Ya Ya.”
Ya Ya, of course, is Ya Ya Dunning, WVU’s inside force and a player other teams concentrate on if WVU isn’t making its outside shots.
Palmer’s teammates know how important it is for the 5-9 junior from Mount Vernon, N.Y., to put the ball in the basket and how troubling that can be at times.
“I think she has to relax. She’s one of our better shooters, and sometimes she thinks about it too much,” said 5-9 junior guard Christal Caldwell, the leading scorer with 21 points in that first game.
“After missing one shot, instead of maybe letting it go, she maybe lets it get to her. She worked on that over the summer. I think she’ll be fine.”
Palmer and her teammates understand the situation with this team, a team that lost its top scorer and inside power player in Asya Bussie to preseason knee surgery. Carey has made it very clear.
“Coach Carey was just talking to me and a couple of my other teammates and telling us we have to take the open shots. He’s giving us the green light. When we get the open shot, we have to take it and if we don’t, we’re pretty much hurting the team because they will sag in a lot on Ya Ya. We have to be ready to make those shots,” Caldwell said.
“I know for a fact, if I’m open, he wants me to shoot. I try to not let his yelling get to me,” Palmer said.
In an effort to get more consistent with her shot, Palmer spent a lot of time in the gym over the offseason.
“I stayed in the gym a lot this summer, working on my game, trying to get consistent with my shooting and being aggressive,” she said. “I know as a shooter, I’m not going to make every shot. My shot will be up and down every game, so I have to keep being aggressive.”
Email Bob Hertzel at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.