The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

March 24, 2011

‘You can’t coach size’

Baylor’s Griner major obstacle in loss that ended WVU’s season

MORGANTOWN — There is an old saying in basketball, its originator lost to the ages, but one suspects it came moments after the legendary Wilt Chamberlain first walked on a basketball floor for Overbrook High in Philadelphia as a 7-foot freshman.

“You can’t coach size,” the saying goes, and it has yet to be disproved.

Coaches can teach you how to shoot, how to play defense, how to dribble and how to pass. They can teach you the zone defense and the dribble-drive offense.

They can’t teach you to be 6-feet, 8-inches tall and, if you happen to combine that with the athletic skills that Brittney Griner of Baylor has ... well, it doesn’t hardly matter what you do.

This was especially a difficult situation for West Virginia University coach Mike Carey as he prepared to play Briner and her Baylor Bears in the second round of the NCAA Tournament in Waco, Texas, on Tuesday night in a game that would prove to be WVU’s final game of the year.

He had no one who can stand there and look her in the eye, but he also had a team that was deficient shooting from the outside. Griner’s greatest skill is blocking shots, and West Virginia’s best way to score is to drive and pass inside and challenge the other team’s big person, hopefully forcing them to foul themselves onto the bench.

That, of course, fits right in with Carey’s persona, which is to be aggressive and try to beat a team at its strength.

The result was quite predictable, even though she was bothered by a couple of fouls in the first half and had to sit out some, Griner scored 30 points and blocked eight shots while seemingly altering 88 other ones in Baylor’s 82-68 victory.

It was one more point that WVU’s senior star Liz Repella would score in her final game, netting 29 to complete a tremendous NCAA tournament in which she scored a season-high 26 and then a season-higher 29 points.

Despite being down most of the game, often by a great deal, the Mountaineers managed to push their way back into the game in the second half, cutting the lead to seven, but in the end it came down to an inability to deal with the one thing they could do nothing about — Griner’s size.

“Our girls did not quit. They kept playing hard,” Carey said.

To him, that turns the evening into a moral victory of sorts, for it can be quite disheartening to drive to the basket and get what you think is an open shot only to see a big hand at the end of a 9-foot wingspan swat the ball away.

“They did what they had to do,” Carey said of his team. “This game was either going to be called close or it was going to let you get physical. Well, the game was called close and because of that we got several people in foul trouble and all of that. It is what it is.”

He was not knocking the officials. They were fair and consistent. It was just that his one chance was to challenge Griner and try to foul her out. The Mountaineers wanted to get physical with Griner, to wear her down, to push her away from the basket, but could not do it.

“We have seen teams push them out like that and get away with it,” Carey said.

His team couldn’t get away with it.

Then they tried to double, but when they did they couldn’t stop Griner from finding the open person cutting to the basket.

“We were ready to go at her,” Repella said. “We knew she was going to block some shots, but we weren’t going to shy away or try to alter our shots. You know, coach always says with a shot blocker, you can’t fade away from them because they’re going to block. You either have to go into them and they’re going to call it or not. So we just continued to attack and try to get into her body.”

The late run came after WVU senior point guard Sarah Miles had to be helped from the floor with a career-ending knee injury, much the way the men’s Da’Sean Butler went down against Duke in his final West Virginia game.

Freshman Brooke Hampton came on and ran the team as it closed the gap to put a scare into Baylor.

“Our guards did a good job of getting out in the passing lanes and getting ball pressure. We got a couple of turnovers and got a couple of easy ones down at the other end and hit a couple of shots,” Carey said. “It was as simple as that. We made a run there and they had to take a timeout. Then they went back to Griner and we kind of kept fouling there again.

“Sarah Miles goes out, our starting point guard, and we bring a freshman in. I thought she did a good job as a freshman coming in, in that kind of situation in this atmosphere.”

And so it ended, the Mountaineers finishing a season that they thought could be special in a not-so-special 24-10, losing 10 of the final 18 games and finishing at 8-8 in the Big East.

Repella wound up leading the Mountaineers in scoring with an even 500 points to average 14.7 a game, followed by senior Madina Ali with 12.4 to go with 7.1 rebounds a game. Miles finished an injury-plagued season with 113 assists to finish fourth all-time in career assists at WVU.

Email Bob Hertzel at

Text Only
WVU Sports
  • HERTZEL COLUMN: Under pressure, NCAA decides to change rules

    At first glance, it appears that they do not go hand-in-hand, a pair of rules changes the NCAA’s Legislative Council approved this week, sending them off for what seems to be smooth sailing toward becoming rules.

    April 18, 2014

  • Means, WVU baseball shut out Oklahoma

    Junior left-hander John Means of the WVU baseball team threw eight shutout innings and the Mountaineers had a five-run first inning en route to a 7-0 victory over Oklahoma on Thursday evening at L. Dale Mitchell Park.
    The Mountaineers (18-15, 3-6 Big 12) broke a six-game Big 12 losing streak after being swept by TCU and Oklahoma State in back-to-back weekends. WVU had 16 hits and did not make an error for the second-straight game.

    April 18, 2014

  • FURFARI COLUMN: Dr. Graber disagrees with Gee’s stance on Turnbull firing

    Dr. Stephen Graber, an associate professor at the West Virginia University School of Medicine, is among the latest WVU teachers to deplore Oliver Luck’s firing of veteran wrestling coach Craig Turnbull.
    He raised some significant questions about that issue last Monday in a meeting of the WVU Faculty Senate.

    April 18, 2014

  • Huggins signs junior college guard

    Coach Bob Huggins completed his 2014-15 West Virginia University recruiting class on Wednesday and deemed it a success after receiving a signed letter of intent from junior college guard Tarik Phillip.
    Phillip joins Jevon Carter of Maywood, Ill., and Daxter Miles of Baltimore’s Dunbar High and out of Notre Dame Prep in Massachusetts in the 2014-15 recruiting class.

    April 17, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: WVU gymnast hopes to stick her final landing

    The reaction, one suspects, was the same as most people who see either a picture of West Virginia University gymnast Hope Sloanhoffer or meet her for the first time in person — a quick double take, maybe even stumbling over the first few words of an introduction.

    April 17, 2014

  • FURFARI COLUMN: Comparing pay of coaches and professors

    Stringing together some odds and ends which may be of interest to you:
    • A beautiful lady came up to my table last Sunday at brunch in the Village of Heritage Point’s main dining room with a message.

    April 17, 2014

  • Bussie looks forward to WNBA

    On Tuesday, the weather turned cold, the wind blew and amongst the raindrops that fell a few snowflakes fluttered quietly to Earth.
    It was as if it was a celebration of Asya Bussie being drafted on Monday night by the Minnesota Lynx, champions of the WNBA, with the third selection of the second round, the 15th overall pick of the draft.

    April 16, 2014

  • WVU’s Harlee named Big 12 Scholar-Athlete

    The Big 12 Conference announced its Scholar-Athlete of the Year recipients for the 2014 winter sport season, and West Virginia University senior Jess Harlee earns the honor for women’s basketball.
    Harlee was selected as the award winner based on a vote of each respective sport’s head coaching group, with coaches not permitted to vote for their own student-athletes.

    April 16, 2014

  • Gyorko, Padres agree to extension

    Jedd Gyorko, who hasn’t hit much of anything with a .178 start on this season, hit the jackpot on Monday, signing a six-year contract extension with the San Diego Padres for $35 million with a one-year club option at $13 million.

    April 15, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN- Spring game showed defense has improved

    From Dana Holgorsen’s viewpoint, which was standing right behind the offense, West Virginia’s Gold-Blue Spring Game on Saturday was a rousing success for it showed very little of what the Mountaineers will be in this coming season, probably not even showcasing the man who will direct the offense in the quarterback position.

    April 15, 2014

Featured Ads
WVU Sports Highlights
NDN Sports
House Ads
NCAA Breaking News
NCAA Photos