This was a day when the team that won’t lose, couldn’t lose.
True to form, West Virginia fell behind TCU early, did it as only they can, by missing 12 of their first 13 shots to find themselves down by 13 points in the first half.
But they have done that all year on their way to what now is a 22-3 record and No. 13 ranking after pulling out a hard-fought 61-57 victory.
Might say, considering the way it happened, that it was just another miracle on a day dedicated to miracles.
Miracle? Well, Cristal Caldwell, who spent most of the day frustrated as shot after shot went clang in the afternoon, suddenly threw down two key 3s, the first breaking a 44-44 tie and the second stretching the lead to 52-47, a lead that would be threatened but never given up.
And why would it never be given up? More miracles, these from Linda Stepney, who is on the court to do anything but score. Yet there she was, the game on the line, first challenging 6-6 Klara Bradshaw and somehow going over her for a score, then driving crazily into the lane, being banged around and knocked almost into the first row of seats as an impossible underhanded, scoop layup went in, that one making a 56-55 lead into a 58-55 lead.
Oh, and then there was just before that, with WVU leading, 54-53, center Asya Bussie finding Cristal Caldwell open under the basket for another easy score.
Bussie, by the way, is the team’s center, was its leading scorer with 16 points on this day, also its leading rebounder with 8 and, yes, led in assists.
Yeah, there were miracles, but then that’s because this was a day about miracles, about the fight to beat cancer. It was Play4Kay day and talk about support, 6,161 fans came out — could have been a lot more if the students would discover this fun women’s team and start coming to the games.
Cancer may not have been beaten on this day, but TCU was and in the midst of it all were Caldwell, Stepney and Bussie.
Caldwell finished with 14 points and made 5 of 15 shots, but at the half was 2 for 7 and was 2 for 11 when she made the 3 that broke the 44-44 tie.
“You have to tell yourself you are going to eventually hit one,” she explained. “If you don’t take the next open shot, you can’t hit.”
Then there was Stepney.
A year ago she never ever would have even considered either drive to the basket, let alone gone all the way through and made those shots.
“She’s grown a lot as a player,” Caldwell said.
“I think she has a little more maturity and experience,” added Bussie. “Teams last year would play off of her. They played like she wasn’t even on the court.”
But there you had it, when WVU needed it most Caldwell and Stepney took charge.
“Christal stepped up and hit a couple of 3s and Linda hit really tough layups. We needed those points. That’s 10 points right there,” said Coach Mike Carey.
But in the end, as it so often does with this team, it comes down to Bussie.
Sometimes you can’t even tell her contribution by the numbers, for teams often double- and triple-team her, making life easier for everyone else.
But then there’s days like this when she has to score 16 points on 5 of 8 shooting and 6 of 8 from the free throw line, grab off 8 rebounds, block three shots, make three steals and add four assists.
“Asya Bussie is one of the most unselfish player I’ve ever coached,” Carey said.
Here she is, looking for all-Big 12 honors, maybe even All-American, but she is selflessly passing up shots to give others points.
“I’ve always been a team player,” she said. “That’s the way you get wins. You can’t put yourself first. We needed baskets.”
And the Mountaineers got them.
Now they play a key game on Wednesday in their battle for the Big 12 title as Oklahoma State, just behind them in the standings, comes to the Coliseum for a 7 p.m. game, looking to avenge a hard-fought four-point home loss to the Mountaineers earlier in the season.
Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel
This was a day when the team that won’t lose, couldn’t lose.
North Marion goes 2-for-2; Fairmont Senior 0-for-2 in tournament
A day after an 11-0 mercy-rule victory at Philip Barbour, the North Marion Huskies were at it again.
Chelsi Latocha threw three no-hit innings, Shelby King drove in five runs in the first inning and the Huskies rolled to a 20-0 victory over the winless Fairmont Senior Polar Bears in the Diamond Dawg Tournament at North Marion High School.
Brewers’ Lohse beats Pirates again
Kyle Lohse pitched effectively into the seventh inning, Carlos Gomez homered and the Milwaukee Brewers beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 5-3 Friday night.
Lohse (3-1) improved to 11-2 in his career against the Pirates, allowing one earned run in a win against them for the second time in six days.
Bucs trade for Mets’ Ike Davis
The New York Mets traded slumping first baseman Ike Davis to the Pittsburgh Pirates on Friday night, parting ways with a power hitter who proved to be too inconsistent at the plate.
Pittsburgh sent minor league right-hander Zack Thornton and a player to be named to New York for the 27-year-old Davis.
Penguins wary of Blue Jackets after Game 1 escape
Sidney Crosby is used to the attention. It comes with the territory when you’re the best hockey player in the world.
Still, the Pittsburgh Penguins star knows the spotlight becomes more acute in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
East’s Postlewait, North’s Latocha toss no-hitters
Tori Postlewait made a deal with her great-uncle, Kenny Carpenter, before her freshman season.
If the Bees’ pitcher tossed a no-hitter, Carpenter promised to give her $20.
Well, it took four years, but it’s finally time for Postlewait’s great-uncle to pay up.
East tennis splits with Polar Bears
Fairmont Senior and East Fairmont split a pair of tennis matches Thursday, with Fairmont Senior winning the boys’ match and East Fairmont taking the girls’ competition.
In the Bees’ 6-1 girls’ victory, Cara Laswell took second singles, 8-2. Erica Gorman won third singles, 8-1. And Carrington Reese won fourth singles, 8-3.
HERTZEL COLUMN: Under pressure, NCAA decides to change rules
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McCutchen, Alvarez lead Pirates over Brewers
Andrew McCutchen hit his first homer of the season and drove in three runs, Pedro Alvarez had a three-run shot and pinch-hitter Josh Harrison broke a tie with a long ball in the seventh inning as the Pittsburgh Pirates handed the Milwaukee Brewers their first road loss, 11-2 on Thursday night.
Means, WVU baseball shut out Oklahoma
Junior left-hander John Means of the WVU baseball team threw eight shutout innings and the Mountaineers had a five-run first inning en route to a 7-0 victory over Oklahoma on Thursday evening at L. Dale Mitchell Park.
The Mountaineers (18-15, 3-6 Big 12) broke a six-game Big 12 losing streak after being swept by TCU and Oklahoma State in back-to-back weekends. WVU had 16 hits and did not make an error for the second-straight game.
FURFARI COLUMN: Dr. Graber disagrees with Gee’s stance on Turnbull firing
Dr. Stephen Graber, an associate professor at the West Virginia University School of Medicine, is among the latest WVU teachers to deplore Oliver Luck’s firing of veteran wrestling coach Craig Turnbull.
He raised some significant questions about that issue last Monday in a meeting of the WVU Faculty Senate.
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