The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

March 9, 2014

WVU women outlast TCU to advance in Big 12 tournament

MORGANTOWN — In the afternoon, West Virginia’s men’s team gave up a career-high 41 points to Andrew Wiggins but found a way to tough out a victory over Kansas.

Then Saturday evening, the West Virginia women’s team gave up a career-high 32 points to Zahna Medley but found a way to tough out a victory over TCU in the second round of the Big 12 Women’s Basketball Championships in Oklahoma City.

How do you do it?

You do it with depth.

The men had 20-point games from Eron Harris, Juwan Staten and Devin Williams to counteract Wiggins’ brilliance while the women used some great all-around play from All-Conference center Asya Bussie, spectacular defensive work from All-Defensive team senior Jess Harlee and some clutch 3-point shooting off the bench from Taylor Palmer, selected as the Sixth-Man of the Year in the Conference.

It makes you think the Big 12 got it right with their post-season awards.

Bussie put together her 15th double-double as a Mountaineer and 8th of this season with 18 points and 13 rebounds, but maybe more important was her passing, as she also led WVU in assists with four, most of them nifty passes that set up layups.

“Asya is unbelievable,” Coach Mike Carey said. “Not only scoring but passing out of the zone and getting position on the fast break.”

Harlee eventually wound up coming off the bench and shutting the door on Medley in the second half after she completely shredded the Mountaineers with six first-half 3s.

“I knew my role was to stick to her and make sure she didn’t get the ball,” Harlee explained. “When she passed it, I was not dropping off her when people were driving to make sure she didn’t get the ball back.”

Harlee had a size advantage over Medley, who stands only 5-foot-6, and is especially long-armed which made it difficult.

“I thought Jess came in and did a great job defensively,” Carey said.

But it wasn’t just Harlee’s defense.

She had seven points and three rebounds, all of them on the offensive boards, one of them really crucial down the stretch.

WVU was leading 61-56 when Linda Stepney missed a free throw. TCU thought it was a two-shot foul and did not move for the rebound while Harlee realized it was 1 and 1, stepped around the TCU player and grabbed the ball for an easy basket.

“I saw them standing there not ready,” Harlee explained “I was pretty sure it was 1 and 1, so I figured I’d just follow it. I got an easy layup and said, ‘Good.’”

In the end, though, it was Bussie who really turned the game.

WVU and TCU had played twice during the regular season, the Mountaineers winning each game by four points, so you knew this would be a battle and going down the stretch WVU was letting a seven-point lead — built mainly on Palmer coming off the bench to his three consecutive 3s —slip away.

There was 1:47 left and WVU was leading, 57-56, when Averee Fields missed WVU’s ninth straight shot.

Bussie, however, went up, grabbed the rebound, spun to her left and put it back in to cut short the TCU run.

Then, with TCU trying to cut the lead to 3, Bussie stepped in and intercepted an inbounds pass that gave WVU a crucial possession that they needed to have to put the game away.

Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.

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