By Bob Hertzel
Times West Virginian
All season long, West Virginia University women’s basketball coach Mike Carey had preached a message to his point guard, Linda Stepney.
It was a simple message, simply that he wanted her to attempt to deliver more scoring from her position than she had been doing.
A point guard’s basic responsibility is to set up other players, but Stepney was doing that to the detriment of her own offense, and that was making matters more difficult for the team as defenders could play loosely off her and sag in on Asya Bussie.
You looked at her stats and they showed that only once all season had she taken more than five shots, that being against Duquesne when she recorded her season high of 10 points on seven shots taken.
“I’ve been saying this all year; she has offensive skills to score,” Carey said Wednesday night after Stepney finally put those skills on display. “She just wouldn’t do it. Tonight, she looked to score.”
The result may have been a defining moment in what is shaping up to be a big-time season for West Virginia’s women’s basketball team.
Playing at Iowa State, where visitors seldom win, the Mountaineers took down a 73-59 victory over the nation’s No. 11/13 team, and Stepney was the key to WVU’s second road upset of a top 20 teams this season.
Stepney scored a season and career high of 17 points on 4-of-9 shooting, hitting four of the five 3-point shots she attempted. She had hit only four 3-pointers in 16 tries all season heading into the Iowa State game.
“The thing with Linda is if she hits a couple of shots, then she’ll shoot. She misses a couple, she stops shooting. We have to get her over that because she’s too good of a scorer,” Carey said.
What Carey has been envisioning is Stepney doing for his women’s team what Juwan Staten has done for the men’s team.
It will be recalled that Staten wasn’t much of a scorer last year but has taken the burden to take over the team onto himself this season, and the result is that he is averaging 17.4 points a game to tie Eron Harris for the scoring lead, 5.9 rebounds to rank second and has 103 assists to just 29 turnovers, making him among the national leaders in that category.
Stepney’s game against the Cyclones was very Statenesque with 17 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists.
Her scoring ability took a lot of pressure off some of the other WVU players who have been struggling to score lately. As it was, four Mountaineers reached double figures and while star center Asya Bussie scored only 8 points, that was because they were sagging on her.
“I have to give Asya Bussie a lot of credit. They were doubling and tripling her and she was passing out of it, not forcing things,” Carey said.
The victory was definitely a step forward for the unranked and underappreciated Mountaineers, who now are 15-2 and nearly have to be ranked in next week’s polls.
“You know, we still haven’t put it all together, but when we do we’re going to be pretty good,” Carey said. “If we can get two or three hitting from the perimeter with Asya Bussie, we’re going to be a pretty good basketball team if we can stay focused on defense.”
Defensively, WVU forced Iowa State out of what it likes to do, which is shoot 3s.
“We did a great job of getting out on the 3, so all of a sudden they started driving us and backdooring us and we were off balance,” Carey said. “We weren’t coming together. But no matter what, I’ll give our girls a lot of credit, coming off that big win against Texas and coming here and winning in a tough place to play.”
Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.