The Times West Virginian

Sports

December 20, 2013

Holmes making strides for WVU

MORGANTOWN — As the play developed, the Delaware State player found herself on a breakaway, dribbling down the court, far ahead of the field.

If this had been the slalom in the upcoming winter Olympics, you would have been saying that the only thing between her and the gold medal was a fall.

This, though, was West Virginia University against Delaware State basketball on Wednesday night, a game WVU would win by the rather ridiculous score of 109-47, and it turned out that what stood between her and a layup was a player far behind, the Mountaineers’ Bria Holmes.

A gifted sophomore guard, Holmes took off in pursuit at breakneck speed and pulled off a Herculean effort as she caught the front-running Hornet from behind just before she was going to take the ball to the basket, slapping it away into the seats as the offended sprawled across the Coliseum floor.

Certainly impressive was the speed Holmes showed for someone who stands 6-foot-1, which makes her a sizeable women’s guard, but more impressive was the desire she showed in a game as one-sided as this, the play obviously not one which would have any real bearing on the outcome.

Such speed, such effort was not what once was expected of her, as teammate Asya Bussie, the Mountaineers’ fifth-year senior center and team leader, would relate in a post-game press conference.

“When she first got here, we had conditioning; she just would not run,” Bussie recalled. “I thought she just couldn’t run and was just slow. We got into an argument (about her effort). Eventually, she started to run, and now she’s leading the team in sprints.”

What was going on with Holmes, who is a shy person and was even more so having just come out of high school in New Haven, Conn.?

“When I first got here, I felt I couldn’t do the stuff they were doing,” she explained. “It was a mental thing. I had just broken down inside. I got through it and this year was fun. I made all my times and stuff.”

Made her times?

“When Bria wants to run, she is as fast as anybody I have,” Carey allowed. “And she’s very athletic. You don’t always have to get shots. The way she jumps, her quickness and height as a guard, she can go in there and dominate the boards, if she wants to.”

Most of her teammates agree that if she continues to push hard, she can become one of the best guards ever to play at WVU along with the Bulgers, Liz Repella, Sarah Miles and Yolanda Paige, although she is going to do her contributing via scoring and rebounds rather than as a set-up guard like Miles and Paige.

Against Delaware State, admittedly not a tough test, she flashed all her skills.

Holmes scored 22 points on 9-of-13 shooting, all four of the misses coming from 3-point range, where she did hit two shots. She had four rebounds and five assists … and she was coming back from missing time with a concussion, which may serve as a sign of the way she plays the game.

“This is the best I’ve felt since coming back. I just had to go out there with the mentality of playing basketball and clearing everything out of my head,” she said, which is something the concussion takes care of quite well.

Told that there were those, including Coach Carey, who see her possessing the ability to be among the best guards ever at WVU, Holmes replied:

“That’s pretty much of a shock. I just have to play my game and not think too much about that kind of stuff.”

Holmes has taken over the scoring lead on the Mountaineers at 14.3 points a game, while also leading in steals with 16.

Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.

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