The Times West Virginian

February 1, 2014

WVU women heading into homestretch

By Bob Hertzel
Times West Virginian

MORGANTOWN — West Virginia University heads into the homestretch of the women’s basketball season with an 8 p.m. game at TCU today, and the seniors know it’s a year where much can be accomplished if they take charge.

“The seniors have to take charge,” guard Taylor Palmer said Friday afternoon before leaving Morgantown for Fort Worth, Texas. “We know how important this season is and how important every game is from here on in. It’s my last season. We want to go as far as we can go.”

The No. 20/24 Mountaineers bring an 18-3 overall record and 7-2 mark in the Big 12 into the game and come off a disappointing effort but victory over Iowa State.

Coach Mike Carey was disappointed with the effort and speed with which his ladies played.

“We watched the second half of the Iowa State game and the second half of the TCU game and (point guard) Linda Stepney was accusing us of slowing our tape down and speeding TCU’s up and I said, ‘No, that’s how it was in the game.’ It’s good to let them see that,” Carey said.

“I told them, if this occurs again you can go back to that situation and start believing me that we need to go a little bit harder.”

“We could see we were stagnant. We were lucky and caught Iowa State on a good night,” said senior forward Christal Caldwell. “They were going in slow motion, too. Some nights are going to be like that. We have nine games left. We have to go all out no matter what name the other team has on the jersey.

“For me, it’s scary. These, plus the tournament, will be my last nine games. I’ve got to come out hard every night.”

Carey’s goal from this point on is to peak his team for both the Big 12 Tournament and the NCAAs.

“We talked about NCAA Tournament, and I normally don’t do this, but I want them to understand about the next nine games,” he said. “It’s all about seeding. If this group of five (seniors) wants to have a great seed in the NCAA Tournament and do something special, they have to win now.

“At times you get caught up in the season and forget about your X’s and O’s. That’s something we want to work on now.”

WVU has great balance and will use that to try and derail TCU. They have four players averaging double figures and are less than intimidated away from home, holding a 7-1 road record.

Sophomore Bria Holmes leads all players with a 14-point-a-game average and is coming off a 16-point performance against Iowa State.

Senior center Asya Bussie is averaging 13.2 points and 7.4 rebounds per game and is coming off a double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds against the Cyclones. Caldwell and Palmer average 12 and 10.9 points per game.

The Horned Frogs are 12-8 and 3-5 in conference.

“They are very athletic,” Carey noted, pointing out their center is among the nation’s leader in blocked shots and that they have a solid point guard, like almost every other team in the Big 12.

“It’s just another top point guard in the conference. There are more top point guards in this conference than the Big East,” he said.

Zahna Medley leads TCU in scoring with 15.1 points per game, the sixth-highest scoring average of all league players. Medley leads TCU in five statistical categories: minutes played (640), field goals made (101), 3-pointers made (41), free throws made (58) and assists (81).

Natalie Ventress is the only other TCU player in double figures, scoring 10.9 points per game. Ventress holds the second-most threes for the Horned Frogs with 30 this season, and 13 in Big 12 play.

Latricia Lovings is TCU’s rebounding leader with 7.9 boards per game and leads the Big 12 Conference in blocked shots with 75, averaging 3.8 blocks per game.

Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.