The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

March 25, 2014

Neither Bussie nor Plaisance wants their careers to end

MORGANTOWN — Some things are very difficult to understand in sports, and one of them is represented by LSU, which provides the second-round opponent of the NCAA Tournament for West Virginia at 9:30 p.m. tonight on their home floor at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center in Baton Rouge, La.

See, LSU is a No. 7 seed, a team that came completely apart down the stretch of a 20-win season, losing seven of its final eight games before beating Georgia Tech in the opening round of the NCAAs.

How could that possibly happen to a team that has a solid young coach and one of the best players in the Southeastern Conference, a team that as easily it wound up a No. 7 seed could well have finished a No. 3 or 4?

Nikki Caldwell is the coach and she is a winner from start to finish, having won national championships at Tennessee as both a player and an assistant coach, then having moved to UCLA and bringing them to national prominence before moving to LSU to do the same thing there.

Taking over a team that failed to reach the NCAAs for the first time in 13 years, she had them back in the Sweet 16 by her second season despite a run of injuries.

Leading the way last year, and this, was forward Theresa Plaisance, a 6-foot-5 senior who will go eyeball-to-eyeball with the Mountaineers’ Asya Bussie following a season in which she made All-SEC first team for the second straight season while averaging 15.6 points, 7.6 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game.

That matchup could become key in this game and Plaisance knows it.

“Well, I feel like their team is all-around — an all-around great team obviously led by Bussie,” Plaisance said. “She does a great job of controlling the tempo for them. They go as she goes. We just need to do have a great defensive effort against this team and especially her if we are going to have any shot of pulling this win out.”

Bussie is the spiritual leader of the Mountaineers, but they have proven they can live without her scoring. Early in the year teams were double- and triple-teaming her and she would pass out to open players.

And in the WVU first-round victory against Albany, she was stymied by 6-foot-9 Megan Craig’s presence, scoring only three points. But she had 12 rebounds despite foul trouble and contributed some key plays when what once had been a 22-point lead was threatened.

Plaisance is more the type of player Bussie is used to going up against in the Big 12 than was the extra-large sized Craig.

“She’s a familiar body compared to the Big 12, so I don’t think that’s something new,” Bussie said. “Just still play the same I’ve played all year – attacking, rebounding, playing defense and helping the team out as much as possible. I don’t think it will be a big difference from what I’ve been playing against in the Big 12.”

As WVU’s only senior, Bussie, is in the same situation as Plaisance, any loss being their final game. Both experienced that feeling in the first-round game.

“Just the realness of there really being no tomorrow unless you give it your all today sunk in yesterday,” Plaisance explained. “They say play every game like it is our last, but really every game from here on out could be my last game and LSU means the world to me. I wish I could stay here forever.

“You know, it’s pulling at my heart that one day I’m going to have to hang up my jersey and I’m going to do whatever I can to prolong that.”

All of this seems to have turned that losing streak to end the season into as dangerous a No. 7 seed as there is in the tournament.

“With them not ending the way that they wanted to that lets you know that they’re going to have a chip on their shoulder,” WVU’s Christal Caldwell said. “It’s tournament time, they’re coming off a good win yesterday and we’re on their home floor. You really can’t talk about what they didn’t do at the end of the season because they’re still a great team.”

“I think they’re going to come out real hungry,” Bussie added. “Like we’ve been saying, it’s one-and-done, so they’re going to give their all and play their best. I don’t expect anything less than that.”

Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel

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