By Bob Hertzel
Times West Virginian
West Virginia University’s women’s basketball, it’s poll spot having been elevated to No. 13 this week, has its place in March Madness cinched, but getting there really isn’t what it’s all about for a team as talented as the Mountaineers.
This year, with a senior-laden roster and talented underclassman, they are looking to make some noise.
“The biggest thing is you never want to be satisfied,” coach Mike Carey said as his team prepared to head to Norman, Okla., for a rematch with a Sooner team it had beaten, 77-63, at home earlier in the season.
“The ultimate goal is to win the national championship. I’m never pleased; it doesn’t matter. I’m never going to be pleased as a coach,” he said. “I need to continue to push and to say we need to get better in these areas.”
The point, over the last seven games before the Big 12 Tournament, is to reach the peak, to get to the point where you can shine under the brightest spotlight in the game, and the Mountaineers believe they have what it takes to be special.
“If we are going to peak it needs to be right now so we’re ready for March,” senior guard Christal Caldwell said. “I still don’t think we’ve put together a full 40 minutes. I think that’s the great part about it because we are winning these games but still haven’t played our best game. When we do, it’s going to be scary.”
Think about the talent WVU (20-3 and 9-2) has.
For example, it faces the Sooners (15-9 and 6-5) tonight, a team with a true star player in Aaryn Ellenberg, a player who averages 18.8 points a game.
WVU has no one averaging anywhere near 18.8 per game, sophomore guard Bria Holmes having raised her average to 14.4 in her last outing with a career-high 31 points.
But, what WVU does have is four different players who have scored 25 or more points in a game during their career – Holmes and Taylor Palmer, a senior who once 33 points in a game; Asya Bussie and Caldwell, each of whom has scored 25 in a game.
“When everyone on the floor can score, you’re balanced. We can bring people off the bench that have double figures, which is unique,” said Carey.
It gives him all kinds of options entering into a game.
“The other night, Asya didn’t score a lot and Averee Fields didn’t score a lot, yet our guards picked it up. We can go inside to get scoring, but also on the perimeter,” he said.
What makes it nice is he isn’t tied to a game plan that isn’t working coming in.
“You know who is playing well, who is not, who’s hitting their shots, who’s not, what’s the best combination. I play nine or 10 people and try to see who is playing well together,” he said. “On the other hand, sometimes players have off days. Your game plan may be to shade one player but she isn’t playing well, so now all of a sudden someone else starts hitting and you have to make adjustments.”
Oklahoma, too, has players other than Ellenberg who can score, starting four players in double figures, but it’s Ellenberg who draws the attention. She scored 28 points the first time these two teams faced each other, and Carey undoubtedly will have some new tricks to try in this rematch.
The game will be broadcast live nationally on Fox Sports 1 with Ron Thulin and Brenda VanLengen. The game will also air live on the Mountaineer Sports Network from IMG online and on WRLF-FM 94.3 and WMMN-AM 920 with Jeff Culhane and Meg Bulger.
Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.