By Bob Hertzel
Times West Virginian
It was just moments after West Virginia University had played perhaps its best basketball game of the women’s basketball season in beating Youngstown State.
They had just left the Coliseum floor and gathered in the locker room when the realization began to hit them that there was no time to celebrate this victory for ahead of them sat a game they felt they had to win.
“We were talking about Duquesne right after this game,” center Yaya Dunning said.
And why was Duquesne on their minds?
The answer to that is almost eerie. Just a week ago, the West Virginia men had Duquesne buried in the first half, leading by 15 points only to blow the game.
That is exactly what happened to the West Virginia women one year earlier.
They had played spectacular first-half defense and held coach Suzie McConnell-Serio’s team to just five field goals and 18 points and had the game won … until they played the second half and spit it up just the men did this year.
Now comes the revenge game at 7 tonight in the Coliseum.
“This is something the coaches would not let go of. It’s been on our minds, and everyone is ready for it,” Dunning said.
“That was a game we let slip away last year. We’re fired up; we want to prove to ourselves we can do it,” added Averee Fields.
Perhaps it was Taylor Palmer, who is coming off one of her best games of the season with 15 ponts on 6 of 10 shooting against Youngstown State, who put it best.
“There’s nothing more to say than we want to get them back. We deserved that win, All we can do is focus on them and getting this win on Thursday,” she said. “We’re ready to play.”
The defeat a year ago was difficult to swallow in part because McConnell-Serio, a former Olympian, dazzled the Mountaineers with her coaching in the second half.
“Suzie (McConnell-Serio) does a great job,” coach Mike Carey said after that game. “They’re well coached. Give them a lot of credit. They never quit and kept battling. I’m just frustrated because we had the game won, up 15 late in the second half, and got rattled. Give her credit. She changed up the defense and we started turning it over and they started scoring.”
Duquesne went to a 2-2-1 zone press and WVU failed to solve it.
This year they are prepared.
The Mountaineers enter the game with a four-game winning streak and an 8-2 record, good for a No. 24 spot in The Associated Press women’s rankings. They believe if they put things together they can go a whole lot higher.
“I think we’re top of the line, national champs, if everyone plays to the best of their ability,” Fields said. “We have a lot of talent. If we can get connected and talking on ‘D’ we can be one of the best teams in the nation.”
“We have a chance to be pretty good,” Carey admitted. “I still think the second half we played against Virginia was our best half of the season. I saw that and said, ‘We’ve got a chance to be OK.’ They were big; they were strong; they were physical. We did it then, so it can happen.”
Email Bob Hertzel at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.