By Bob Hertzel
Times West Virginian
On a Saturday when the blocked shot was the major topic of conversation, West Virginia University women’s basketball player Aysa Bussie gave Mountaineer fans something positive to put into the equation as she blocked a career-high seven shots as WVU smothered Marquette with defense, 53-32.
“West Virginia played incredible defense,” said the Golden Eagles’ coach Terri Mitchell.
Easy for her to say. She had just watched her team be held to 18.2 percent shooting from the field by a WVU team that seemed at times to be playing six players, all of them 6-foot-11.
In all, West Virginia blocked 10 shots, which matched the number of balls Marquette put through the hoop.
Incredibly, Marquette was able to score only three baskets in the 20 minutes of the second half, something that gave the Mountaineers no small amount of satisfaction, considering that all season they had been overpowering defensively in the first half, then let matters slip away in the second.
“We talked about how we can’t come out strong in the first half and then let up,” said Christal Caldwell, the Mountaineers’ high scorer with 20 points while also tying for the team rebound lead with seven. “Today we played better in the second half than the first.”
Entering the game, WVU had allowed 419 first-half points and 579 second-half points, about 25 percent more in the second half.
Against Marquette, however, the Mountaineers got stronger in the second half, allowing only those three field goals and an 11.5 percent shooting percentage.
The defense was so good that Marquette did not score for the first 4:17 of the first half and for the first 4:43 of the second half.
Amazingly, the Mountaineers held Marquette without an assist until 9:34 of the second half ... that is 30 minutes and 26 seconds before someone assisted on a basket.
As it was, Marquette finished with two assists and 20 turnovers.
The biggest defensive obstacle was the 6-foot, 4-inch Bussie, who at times looked more like she was playing volleyball than basketball as she slapped balls away.
She was averaging only 2.35 blocks per game coming into this game that would go down as WVU’s 15th victory against six defeats, but Marquette kept trying to penetrate into the paint, and she kept denying them access to the basket.
About the only person’s shots she didn’t block was Caldwell’s, who jokingly said in practice that “she never blocks my shot.”
When told about that, Bussie gave forth a knowing smile and responded ... “That’s false. That’s not true.”
Caldwell eventually admitted that she was only kidding, that Bussie can block anyone’s shot.
Caldwell has been on a tear, scoring in double figures in nine consecutive games, reaching 20 or more points in three of them.
“We talked about her being the emotion of the team,” Mitchell, the Marquette coach, said. “She plays so hard, never takes play off. She is making things happen and doing it in a variety of ways — rebounding, driving, hitting 3-point shots.”
The Mountaineers take today off from practice and then, on Monday, move into the new practice facility for their first practice. They cannot move in completely yet, but have been cleared to use the gym in there.
Email Bob Hertzel at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @bhertzel.