By Bob Hertzel
Times West Virginian
Somehow you knew it was going to be West Virginia University’s night right from the evening’s first made shot, a 3-pointer launched by center Yaya Dunning from deep behind the line and straight away.
It wasn’t that it went in that told the tale of what would follow, that being a 76-47 victory over what was not a bad, just overmatched, UNC-Wilmington team before 1,656 fans.
It was how.
A swish, it was not.
Instead, it arched high over the basket, hit the backboard and came straight through.
“She called it,” joked Christal Caldwell.
WVU could joke, having survived a sloppy opener, in part because Caldwell would pump in 21 points to lead in scoring, in part because Taylor Palmer seemed the regain the shooting touch that had left her far too often last year and scored 13, and in part because, with that 3-point shot, Dunning would put up a double-double of 11 points and 10 rebounds despite a thumb that was taped due to a slight injury.
“First game,” said coach Mike Carey, “and I’m glad it’s over.”
Artistic it wasn’t, in part because he is playing everyone as he tries to figure out what is best for his team, 13 players taking part, 11 of them for nine or more minutes. Everyone got to shoot the ball and, while the feeling was that they were making a lot of mistakes, the statistics sheet showed 15 assists to 14 turnovers, something that surprised even Carey.
“I’ve got to get the freshmen playing,” Carey noted. “We put them out there and let them knick the ball off each other’s head, let them throw the ball away and do what freshmen do. The next time they will be better.”
And Carey has high hopes for those freshmen contributing this year, players like Jennie Simms and Bria Holmes and Darius Faulk.
What the Mountaineers did do best was play defense. UNC-Wilmington is a team that won 20 games last year and normally shoots well from behind the 3-point line, but it was just 3 for 20 in this one, and the Mountaineers forced 23 turnovers while the Seahawks had but seven assists.
“We’re pretty athletic and we run in a lot of bodies,” said Carey. “I think we wore them down. That’s why we picked up at the end.”
Indeed, UNC-Wilmington stayed close throughout much of the game, the lead ranging from 7 to 12 points.
In fact, with 8:54 to go the lead was 49-37 and Wilmington had the ball, but Jess Harlee pulled off a steal to ignite a fast break with Bria Holmes taking a nifty pass from Brooke Hampton to score on a layup.
The next time Wilmington scored a basket there was 2:21 left and the score was 69-39, the Seahawks having only two free throws to show for a 6:33 run while WVU scored 20 points.
The Mountaineers take a couple of days off before going to Boston to face Boston University on Monday.
NOTES: Carey is this season’s honorary chairperson of the Morgantown Salvation Army Red Kettle Christmas campaign. As part of the campaign, the WVU women’s home game at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 17, will be dedicated to the area’s “Forgotten Angels,” and fans who bring an unwrapped toy for the Angel Tree Program will receive a voucher good for admittance to a future WVU women’s home basketball game.
Email Bob Hertzel at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow on Twitter @bhertzel.