The Times West Virginian

February 13, 2013

WVU women in crucial stretch

Mountaineers host No. 25/24 Oklahoma State

By Bob Hertzel
For the Times West Virginian

MORGANTOWN — The way Coach Mike Carey and his West Virginia women’s basketball team figure it, they have six games left to play in the regular season and need to win at least four of them to make the NCAA Tournament.

It begins tonight when No. 25/24 Oklahoma State comes to the Coliseum with revenge on its mind in a 7 o’clock game.

“I told the players there are six games left and we need to win at least four of them,” Carey said.

And that is all that matters.

That WVU beat Oklahoma State in the first meeting in Stillwater, 67-61, matters not any more.

True, the Cowgirls will be an angry group that comes to town, especially coming off a loss to instate rival Oklahoma.

“We have to play the same way we played in that game but play smarter and harder,” said WVU’s Christal Caldwell, the team’s leading scorer with a 13.7 point-a-game average. “If we stay focused, the same thing can happen.”

Caldwell was key in beating Oklahoma State the first time around, hitting a career-high five 3-point shots while scoring 21 points.

Just as important, she had six steals that disrupted the flow of the Oklahoma State offense that is built around the play of point guard Tiffany Bias, who had 11 turnovers in that game alone.

“The key in the first game was our defense and taking the point guard out,” Caldwell said. “She runs the team completely.”

“They struggled to get into things,” center YaYa Dunning said. “We have to keep the ball out of her hands.”

Oklahoma State averages 76.6 points a game to rank ninth in scoring in the nation.

Normally Bias is dominant. She averages 12.4 points and 6.9 assists per game, even though the Cowgirls actually have a 5-6 Big 12 record compared to WVU’s 6-6 mark.

“She’s as good as there is in the Big 12,” Carey said. “She’s very aggressive and can hit the mid-range jump shot. We have to keep her out of the paint.”

WVU’s other key is to keep Dunning out of foul trouble and on the floor. In the last game at Kansas, WVU won with Dunning scoring 17 points and grabbing nine rebounds.

“When she doesn’t score, we don’t win,” Carey said.

His point is that when she is in there and scoring, teams have to cover her and can’t concentrate on Caldwell and guard Taylor Palmer.

WVU enters the game with a 14-9 record, having lost a number of games it should have won to put its NCAA spot in peril.

Should they win four of their final six games, they would finish with 18 regular season victories and would probably need to win one game in the Big 12 Tournament to guarantee their spot in the postseason tournament.

Email Bob Hertzel at bhertzel@hotmail.com or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.