The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

February 9, 2011

UConn survives at WVU, 57-51

Carey: Not a moral victory for Mountaineers

MORGANTOWN — The tendency, perhaps, is to declare West Virginia University’s narrow 57-51 loss to Connecticut, the nation’s No. 2 women’s basketball team, before 5,855 fans at the Coliseum a moral victory, but it was anything but to Coach Mike Carey.

“People say that’s pretty good; you only got beat by six. But man, we expected to win this game. We didn’t, so I’m upset. I thought we had chances to win this game and we didn’t,” Carey said.

True, one must take something out of the game, for once upon a time the Mountaineers actually lost a game 100-21 to UConn, so certainly times have changed. Even last year Connecticut beat West Virginia 60-32 and 80-47, so there was progress, but this one was different.

This game was no longer WVU-UConn. It was WVU against itself and, to be perfectly honest, losing it left the Mountaineers in a rather precarious position, one this team never thought it would see.

When the season started and WVU rolled to 16 straight victories and climbed as high as No. 6 in the rankings, the thought of beating UConn was not just a pipe dream. It seemed to be as real as the snow that lay deep on the ground.

But like that snow, it melted away as WVU lost three of its last four games.

All of a sudden, the Mountaineers’ seemingly secure NCAA Tournament bid is in jeopardy.

“I told the girls after the game we have to win three or four more Big East games or we’re not going to get into the NCAA. That’s the thing. They looked at me like they were shocked. What are we, 6-5 now in the Big East? We can’t have a losing record in the Big East and expect to get in the NCAA.”

As unimaginable as it is, WVU could somehow manage to blow the NCAA.

“We have a lot of tough road games. We go to Louisville, to Rutgers. We have Notre Dame here, which is a very good team. And we go to Pitt, which beat us here at home. There aren’t any easy games left,” said Carey.

His team was somewhat shocked to hear such talk and when it was brought up to Liz Repella, who scored 13 points in the defeat with five rebounds, an assist and three steals, she left no doubt that was bugging her and her teammates.

“It’s a reality check,” she said. “We have five games left. Our seniors do not want to play in the NIT. That’s just not acceptable.”

Winning this one would have almost certainly clinched the NCAA bid and a rather high seed, but the All-American and National Player of the Year Maya Moore would not let it happen.

Moore scored 27 points, 15 of them in the second half and eight of her team’s final 10 down the stretch.

WVU actually played decently on Moore. They went in with a plan, trying to make her shoot from the outside.

“We wanted her to shoot over the top. We didn’t want to let her get it in the lane,” Carey explained. “So what did we do? We take a ball fake twice and she gets into the paint and then we foul her. With Maya Moore, you have to pick your poison. You have to hope she’s not hitting over the top. You have to stay with her, because she’s the best player in the country, bar none.”

“She’s a great player,” Repella admitted. “They don’t win if she doesn’t step up tonight.”

On the West Virginia side, Repella, Madina Ali and Sarah Miles did what they could do. Ali had 17 points and eight rebounds and might have had a number of more points if some close-in shots on which she was fouled hadn’t rolled off the rim.

And Miles, while hitting only 3 of 13 shots on a night when WVU could shoot only 29.6 percent and hit only five second-half field goals, ran the offense beautifully as the Mountaineers stayed in contact with Connecticut, never falling too far behind.

But, in the end, it was more of the same for a WVU women’s team that hasn’t been able to throw the ball into the ocean all year.

“Any time you hold Connecticut to 57 points, Jesus, God, you should have a pretty good chance of winning,” Carey said.

They had that chance. They just couldn’t pull it off.

E-mail Bob Hertzel at bhertzel@hotmail.com.

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