Despite a 19-point halftime lead and an even bigger advantage early in the second 20 minutes, the West Virginia University women’s basketball team came out of the break cold, as Oklahoma took a 65-64 victory, handing WVU an early exit at the Philips 66 Big 12 Championship Saturday night.
The Mountaineers (17-13, 9-9 Big 12) led by as many as 22 points, but a 40-point second-half performance by the Sooners (22-9, 11-7 Big 12) propelled Oklahoma to the last-second victory.
An offensive foul with 26 seconds sacrificed the Mountaineers’ chance to break a 64-64 tie. Sharane Campbell was fouled going up for a layup with 5.5 seconds remaining. Campbell converted the back end of the free-throw attempts for a one-point game. Point guard Linda Stepney hustled the ball up the court and found Bria Holmes for a seven-footer, but the final-second shot was off the mark.
“We tried to take some time off the clock there when it was tied and run a play that we ran against Iowa State, and they called an offensive foul on Averee Fields to give them their last shot. Then we came down and had a good look to win the game and missed it, but we blew a 22-point lead,” coach Mike Carey said.
A layup from Morgan Hook with 14:31 remaining in the game put the Sooners on a 26-5 run to take back the lead of the game since the opening minutes at 60-58 and 5:09 remaining in the game. WVU was cold from the floor, shooting 2-of-11 (18.2 percent) and committing seven fouls and four turnovers in the stretch. The Mountaineers tied the game three more times, but couldn’t take the lead back.
“Needless to say it was a tale of two halves. First half, we were scoring at will and they couldn’t score, and second half it was the other way around,” Carey said. “Give Oklahoma credit. They came out and played harder than we did the second half. We weren’t as aggressive offensively or defensively the second half as we were the first half.”
The Sooners took an early 10-3 lead with 16:30 in the opening half. A trey from Taylor Palmer sparked a 26-9 Mountaineer run to the 4:32 mark to give WVU a 10-point lead at 29-19. The Mountaineers continued their dominance by going on a 15-6 run to close out the half for a 44-25 halftime lead – its largest first-half point total this season. The Mountaineers made it rain threes, recording eight in the first half alone, a season-high for the team.
Christal Caldwell was one of two Mountaineers in double figures, finishing the game with a double-double of 22 points and 11 rebounds – her first of the season. Caldwell hit all five of her 3-pointers in the first half. Palmer was the other WVU player in double figure with 11 points, while Crystal Leary came off the bench to chip in eight points and six boards.
After shooting 44.1 percent (15-34) in the first half, WVU was held to 7-of-32 (21.9 percent) in the second half, finishing the game shooting 33.3 percent (22-66) from the field. Oklahoma was 20-of-53 from the field, but the Mountaineers held the advantage from beyond the arc shooting 10-of-24 (41.7 percent), while limiting the Sooners to 3-of-24 (12.5 percent).
Oklahoma took 33 shots from the charity stripe and edged out WVU with a 66.7 (22-33) free-throw percentage, while the Mountaineers converted 10-of-16 (62.5 percent) from the line.
The Mountaineers held Oklahoma to only 10 points in the paint in the first half, but the Sooners ended the game with a 30-22 advantage. Oklahoma converted 17 WVU turnovers into 20 points, while the Mountaineers had 17 points off 14 OU giveaways. WVU’s bench outscored Oklahoma’s 15-10, as the Mountaineers also had the advantage over the Sooners in second-chance points 15-7.
Griffin, Ellenberg and Campbell finished in double figures for the Sooners with 16, 12 and 15 points, respectively, as the trio combined for 31 of the Sooners 40-second half points. Joanna McFarland led off the boards with 13, while Hook chipped in nine assists.
The Mountaineers are 17-13 overall and await their postseason fate with the NCAA Selection Show on Monday, March 18 at 7 p.m., on ESPN.