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January 13, 2014

WVU women get win over Texas in OT

MORGANTOWN — Mike Carey, the West Virginia University women’s basketball coach, stood at the podium back in the media room by his women’s team’s dressing quarters and seemed almost amazed at what he was saying.

“You look at it,” he said, staring down at a box score from the Mountaineers’ 56-49 overtime victory against Texas before 3,597 fans, “and see we shot 26.5. percent from the field, 35.3 percent from 3 and 60.9 percent from the foul line, and you would not think I’d be here talking about a win.”

Indeed, his Mountaineers once again looked more like they were auditioning for the television show “Survivor” than playing a Big 12 basketball game, somehow figuring out a way to win a game that neither team played well enough to claim.

“It says a lot about our determination,” Carey said, “but, man, we got to get a lot better.”

The determination impressed a disappointed Texas Coach Karen Aston.

“They just wanted the ball more than we did,” she said.

The game’s most important statistics, the ones Carey didn’t read at the onset of the press conference, told the true story of the game.

“On all the hustle plays we won the battle,” Carey said.

While outrebounded by four, WVU grabbed 22 offensive rebounds to 14 for Texas. And while committing 13 turnovers of their own, they forced 26 turnovers and outscored Texas, 23-4, in points off turnovers.

There were a lot of heroics on the WVU side from players whose dreadful play had made heroics necessary, players like Taylor Palmer and Bria Holmes and Christal Caldwell and Averee Fields and Asya Bussie.

But above the heroics was this gritty determination that this team shows, an inner strength that has carried it to a 14-2 record and a 3-1 start in the Big 12.

“This is two games now that if people watched it they’d swear up and down we didn’t win,” Carey said, referring to an earlier road upset of No. 11 Oklahoma State and now beating Texas to avoid an 0-2 home start in conference play.

The situation was bleak as play entered the final three minutes, WVU trailing, 48-40, and true to the theme in this game, it turned on the most impossible of situations, Bria Holmes missing the front end of consecutive one-and-one situations.

WVU got the offensive rebound on each, the ball finding its way into her hands again.

Rather than backing off from the challenge after missing critical free throws, she slammed home a 3 to cut it to 48-43.

“She’s got a short memory, a lot shorter than mine,” Carey said. “Give her credit.”

Moments later another lady with a short memory, Taylor Palmer, who was 0-for-9 shooting at the moment, made another 3 and it was a two-point game, WVU tying it on a steal that led to layup by Averee Fields and missing a chance to win in overtime when Holmes attempt at a layup missed.

In overtime it was all West Virginia.

Fittingly, the first half ended with West Virginia’s Jess Harlee missing a fast break layup just before the buzzer went off, allowing Texas to almost embarrassingly take a 21-20 lead to the locker room.

Certainly, it had been the first half from hell.

That West Virginia was within a point from the lead was impossible to fathom, considering they had shot 19.4 percent for the half to 44.4 percent for Texas.

How does a team shoot 19.4 percent?

Well, it begins with 0-6 from Taylor Palmer, 0-4 from Asya Bussie and 1-5 each from Linda Stepney and the slumping Christal Caldwell.

That 2 for 20 from four key players, 10 percent.

So how do you stay close?

Defense … you force 12 turnovers in the half while committing only five. West Virginia scored 11 of their 20 points off turnovers.

And then you also keep 6-foot-7 Imani McGee-Stafford from dominating, holding her to five points and only three rebounds, none on the offensive end.

Of course, Texas contributed by not only turning the ball over those 12 times but by making 5 of 14 free throws.

Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel

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