By Bob Hertzel
Times West Virginian
West Virginia’s women’s basketball team, ignited by Christal Caldwell and Taylor Palmer, turned on the juice after a lackadaisical first half and scored 56 second-half points to bury a game against an overmatched Coppin State team. The 88-56 win gave coach Mike Carey his 250th victory as Mountaineer coach.
“I was fortunate enough to have a lot of great players, a lot of great assistant coaches and a lot of support. West Virginia is a great place to coach,” Carey said.
Caldwell led the way with 22 points, hitting 4 of 7 from 3-point range, after sinking only one of six field attempts in the first half, while Taylor, whose role has changed this season from starting to coming off the bench, finished with 18 points.
Taylor had only three first-half points.
“That’s what I expected of her,” Carey said of his move to bringing Taylor off the bench. “I expected her to be able to come in and give us that spark.”
Certainly the 6-1 Mountaineers needed a spark. At one point late in the first half, they went 5:43 without a field goal and had to score the final five points of the half on a basket from Jess Harlee and a last-second drive by Brooke Hampton to go into the locker room ahead 32-29.
“It’s amazing,” Carey said. “The other day Youngstown State played a sagging defense against us, and all we did was shoot it instead of getting it inside. Today they kind of sagged and we wouldn’t shoot. I don’t know, I just told them to be aggressive and just shoot it.”
Those were orders they enjoyed following, but the aggression was at both ends of the floor.
West Virginia forced 27 turnovers in the game, 16 of them on steals ... and they were off and running when they stole the ball, getting 30 points off turnovers. Twenty-three of those 30 points came after intermission.
“We can’t let them dictate the way we play,” Caldwell said.
“When we don’t play our game and are slow and sluggish, anyone can play with us,” Palmer said. “When we play our game we are hard to beat.”
WVU took only four more shots in the second half than in the first, but made 10 more baskets, mostly because they were getting to the hoop.
Palmer was especially aggressive, which represented a big change in her normal playing style.
She came to WVU as an outside shooter.
“Teams scouted me and had me as a 3-point shooter,” she said. “I worked on getting to the basket over the summer. It makes my game better. I can get some easy shots when my 3s aren’t falling.”
This turned out to be a physical game with Bria Holmes completing a dismal night in which she made just 1 of 8 shots and had to leave the game with a concussion after taking a hard foul on a fast break. Carey was not sure how long she would be out.
Palmer also was hit hard on what was ruled an intentional foul and injured her hand but remained in the game.
WVU plays again at 2 p.m. Saturday in the Coliseum against Fairleigh Dickinson University of New Jersey.
Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.