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.
Polar Bear tennis sweeps East: PHOTOS
Last week East Fairmont’s girls’ tennis team beat Fairmont Senior, 4-3.
Wednesday at Fairmont State University, the Polar Bears returned the favor with a 5-2 win over their cross-town rival.
Alissa Link won No. 1 singles, 8-4. Morgan Hoke won No. 3 singles, 9-7. And Avery Towns won No. 4 singles, 8-5, for the Polar Bears.
Falcons set for spring game
Football is back … well, kind of.
Today at 7 p.m., Fairmont State will hold its annual Maroon & White spring game at Duvall-Rosier Field. The scoreboard won’t mean a whole lot since it’s little more than a glorified scrimmage. Instead, here are five things to watch during today’s game.
HERTZEL COLUMN: NCAA football is thriving in the digital age
The other day Baylor football coach Art Briles walked into his graduate assistants’ office and had to laugh at what he saw.
“There’s five guys sitting in there — a couple of GA’s and some office personnel — and they all are within a foot and a half of each other and not a one of them is talking to each other,” Briles said, describing the scene “Every one of them is on the phone.”
Hillberry commits to Wesleyan
Last year Emma Harrison and Kaitlyn Conaway teamed up with Alexis Hillberry to win several relay medals at the state track meet.
Though the two West Virginia Wesleyan runners are now in college, they helped to pass the baton to Hillberry Wednesday when she signed her National Letter of Intent to join her former teammates on the Bobcats’ track team.
O’Brien leads WVU baseball past Marshall
Catcher Cam O’Brien made a bid at becoming only the second West Virginia University player to hit for the cycle as the Mountaineers jumped on Marshall early and routed their in-state rival, 10-3, behind strong pitching from Corey Walter and a pair of relievers.
North, East softball earn blowout wins
The North Marion softball team was at it again Wednesday night.
Mattie Polling tripled and singled, starting pitcher Chelsi Latocha doubled and gave up just one hit as the Huskies rolled to another 3-inning mercy-rule victory over Lewis County, 18-1.
Simon, Bruce lead Reds past Bucs, 5-2
Alfredo Simon pitched into the seventh inning despite erratic control, Jay Bruce drove in a run for a fifth consecutive game and the Cincinnati Reds beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 5-2 Wednesday night.
Simon (3-1) worked 6 2-3 innings and allowed two runs on four hits and five walks while striking out four.
Pens squander lead, fall to Columbus
Brandon Dubinsky scored with 22.5 seconds left in regulation to force overtime and Nick Foligno’s wrist shot just inside the blue line 2:49 into the extra session gave the Columbus Blue Jackets a 4-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday night.
Cousins Sansalone, Craig lead Polar Bears past B-U: PHOTOS
They say you don’t mess with family. Buckhannon-Upshur found that one out the hard way.
Mascaro signs with FSU
Gabi Mascaro is staying in Fairmont.
After considering several out-of-state colleges, the Fairmont Senior soccer standout signed her National Letter of Intent Tuesday to continue her career at Fairmont State University, an upstart program which will play its first games in 2015.
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