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February 20, 2014

WVU women destroy Oklahoma State

MORGANTOWN — This one had been building for West Virginia University’s women’s basketball team.

  They would win, one game after another, never very impressive, never overpowering, almost always on top … but you could sense something growing.

Now No. 12 Oklahoma State was coming to town, a team WVU had beaten earlier in the season, a team with more losses than the Mountaineers, yet a team ranked ahead of them, and they didn’t like that at all.

“It’s all about respect. You have to earn respect,” senior Christal Caldwell said.

They were ready to finally show the world exactly what they have … and they did, scoring the most lopsided victory over a ranked team in school history, burying a good Oklahoma State team, 77-45, before 2,087 fans at the Coliseum.

They were so good that after the game, Oklahoma State coach Jim Littell told coach Mike Carey in the handshake line that he felt they were a Final Four team and told the media they were “an Elite Eight-type team, if not higher, depending on the draw.”

“It’s the most talented team in the Big 12,” he said, noting that Baylor might be more dangerous because Odyssey Sims can throw 40 points on you at any time, but from top to bottom he felt WVU was better.

One could understand why after the Mountaineers ran their record to 23-3 and 12-2 at the Cowgirls’ expense, allowing them to hit just 16 of 62 shots, 25.8 percent, and only one of 18 from 3-point range.

“They said on radio we made one more than a dead man,” said Littell, able to find some humor in the ashes of defeat.

Carey didn’t want to hear anything about the Final Four.

“We have Kansas State next,” he stressed.

The Mountaineers came out intent on starting fast, setting the tone.

The best of the best was Bria Holmes, who erupted for 17 first-half points and hit a key basket, one of her four 3s, the one time OSU cut the lead to single digits. She finished with 20 points and six rebounds.

There is no other way to describe the first half put together by the Mountaineers than magnificent.

They came out filled with emotion, having put together a surprise dedication of the game to senior student manager SeLarra Armstrong, who had learned on New Year’s Eve she was suffering from Stage 2 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, and knowing that Carey had termed the meeting with the Cowgirls as “the biggest of the year.”

And they played like nothing would get in their way, rushing off to a 14-0 lead in which they completely stymied Oklahoma State on defense and ran their offense to precision.

Christal Caldwell got it started with a fast-break basket off a missed three, and then Bria Holmes came up with what would be the first of four first-half 3s she would hit and it was 5-0, OSU calling a time out just 1:36 into the half.

The timeout didn’t help much as it was 14-0 before Brittany Atkins hit the Cowgirls’ first basket, a lead that would swell to 17-2 when Caldwell answered with a 3.

The Mountaineers continued to put the pressure on but around the 6-minute mark went cold for a spell from the floor and the free-throw line, allowing Oklahoma State to see a ray of hope, cutting the deficit to single digits at 32-23.

But they had no answer for Holmes, who would finish the first half with 17 points.

She hit another of her 3s to get it back into double digits and then Jess Harlee, off the bench, took charge of the rest of the half, hitting a basket on a fast break, then leading two more breaks on which she was fouled, hitting all four free throws for six straight points.

That gave the Mountaineers an 18-point lead, their biggest of the half, and just to protect it Harlee, the reigning Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, forced a turnover with 7.7 seconds left to keep OSU from having anything positive to take into the locker room.

It wasn’t difficult to figure out the difference at the half. WVU had 18 points on 6-for-13 3-point shooting while the Cowgirls had none on 0-for-8 shooting.

The second half started as the first half ended, WVU scoring three consecutive baskets and two free throws to extend the lead to 49-23 before Tiffany Bias sank a pair of free throws for the first OSU points at 15:54.

That was only a momentary distraction as the points continued to pile up and when Holmes hit a free throw at 12:07, WVU had doubled Oklahoma States score at 54-27 … and the Cowgirls still lacked a second-half field goal.

In fact, Oklahoma State’s first second half field goal didn’t come until 8:34 of the second half, 11:26 without a basket and by then … well, it was over, WVU on top 62-29.

Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.

 

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