By Bob Hertzel
Times West Virginian
Sometime in the midst of a rather intense halftime talk, Coach Mike Carey looked at his team and asked a question.
“What do you think they are shooting?” he asked his team, which was trailing Rutgers, 31-24.
Aysa Bussey, his center and the lady coming off the game of her life, having led WVU to an upset of No. 2 Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., to earn Big East Player of the Week honors, had an idea.
“I wanted to say 70 percent,” she admitted later in the post-game interview, after WVU had come back to score a 60-50 victory over No. 21 Rutgers, “but I was scared to say that.”
Yaya Dunning understands why.
“Sometimes,” she said, “those questions are rhetorical.”
This was probably one of those occasions, for the truth was that Rutgers was shooting 71.4 percent in the first half, making 15 of 21 shots.
“I’ve never had anyone shoot 71 percent against me,” Carey said.
And so it was that halftime was a rather one-sided conversation between coach and his team ... perhaps a lecture would be more the proper term.
“A little heart to heart,” was the term Carey preferred to use.
He brought up the idea of following up that stunning performance at Notre Dame with a stinker, which often can happen, completely wiping out all the good that came from the upset.
“Everyone was telling you how good you were when you beat Notre Dame. If you lose this they will be telling you how bad you are,” Carey said. “We’re better than this. You are not playing to your capabilities.”
And so it was that they went out with a bit of a different mindset in the second half.
Listen to the stats from that half. Rutgers went from shooting 71.4 percent to shooting 20.7 percent, making just six of 29 shots. Rutgers had 12 assists in the first half, one in the second.
WVU says it is because of the way they made corrections in their defense, got their rotation going. It didn’t hurt that Bussey and Dunning got the two Rutgers big players in trouble, forcing both to foul out.
Rutgers Coach C. Vivian Stringer gave credit to the defense, to the play of the big people, but also noted that her team went into panic mode, in part because of what Bussie and Dunning were doing.
“They are two imposing figures,” she said, “but we did not stay composed and that did not help.”
The Mountaineers made a run early in the second half, outscoring Rutgers, 12-4, out of the gate to take a one-point lead.
The Scarlet Knights hung in there and actually reclaimed a three-point lead at 42-39. The game remained tight for a couple of minutes, WVU in front 49-48 when Khadijah Rushdan suffered a tough turnover. Coming a short time after she had stolen the ball and missed a layup, she was still frustrated and slapped the ball down onto the ground.
The official took note of the act and hit her with a technical, a call that could have gone either way, but the way it went was to swing the game into the Mountaineers’ favor.
There was 3:29 left to play and Rutgers would not score again until hitting a meaningless basket just before the final buzzer, WVU having run off 14 straight points to put the game away, three of them coming on a clutch three from Brooke Hampton.
WVU now stands at 19-6, 9-3 in the Big East. They have won three straight over ranked teams and surely will break into the Top 25 next week, especially if they can get by yet another ranked team in DePaul on Saturday.
Email Bob Hertzel at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @bhertzel.