By Bob Hertzel
Times West Virginian
Sometimes it isn’t how much one says that captures the essence of a situation, simply what one says.
In the case of the West Virginia University women’s basketball team’s situation, it was junior forward Christal Caldwell who said all that had to be said before the team left for today’s 8 p.m. game at TCU.
“This is it,” Caldwell said, encapsulating the entire situation.
West Virginia owns a 15-10 overall record and stands at 7-7 in a Big 12 race that has national No. 1 Baylor off by itself at 14-0 but the next six teams within two games of each other as they battle for seeding in the conference tournament.
WVU is 7-7 and is in the stretch run.
“I know we have four games left. I said before all this started that we had six games left and had to win four. Now we have four games and we have to win three,” said coach Mike Carey.
It starts with a TCU team that is 8-17 overall and just 1-13 in the conference, which makes it sound like a walkover, but the Horned Frogs are coming off their first conference triumph of the year over Oklahoma State, 64-62, ending a 13-game losing streak.
“You knew they were so close they were eventually going to win one. Now I hope they got it over with,” Carey said. “They will have a little confidence now. This is their second home game in a row. We are going to have to go in there and play well.”
Following TCU, WVU comes home to host Kansas State, which is 4-10 in the league, then hosts No. 1 Baylor and Britney Griner before closing out the regular season at Texas, another team near the bottom with a 3-11 record.
“We have to continue to play hard. We’ve played hard all year but, toward the end of the year, four games left, everyone wants it and no one is going to let any games go. We can’t let any games get away,” Caldwell said.
“There’s no room for error. Some of the teams that have been at the top have let some games go, and that has worked out in our favor. We know how serious this is. We have to continue to come together as a team.”
“We know that every win matters,” added junior forward Jess Harlee. “We know we have to play our best so we can have a good ranking in the Big 12 Tournament.”
Short of a collapse, WVU seems to be in good shape for a post-season NCAA bid.
“Our strength of schedule is the highest it’s ever been since I’ve been here,” Carey noted. “One has us at 8 and another at 9. Our RPI is going to be good …. but we have to win some games.”
They made it a little bit easier on themselves the hard way in their last game, coming from behind on the road to beat No. 24/23 Iowa State, hitting 68 percent of their shots in the second half while winning, 68-66.
The Mountaineer bench made the difference in this game, outscoring Iowa State, 41-6.
“I was proud of them. We’re down 12-0 and I’m thinking, ‘My goodness, we’re in trouble.’ The crowd was going pretty crazy at that point,” Carey said. “Our bench did a great job. Bria Holmes did a great job, everyone did.”
They did so well that Carey went with bench players to start the second half.
“We started slow at the start of the game, but at the end of the half we were going pretty well, so I just went with who was in the game then,” Carey said. “That’s something I did at Oklahoma State, too. I just see who I feel is playing well, who has the quickness. It’s nothing against the starters.”
Email Bob Hertzel at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.