MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Four Mountaineers recorded scoring numbers in double figures led by Christal Caldwell’s 24 points as the West Virginia women’s basketball team downed its second-consecutive ranked opponent with a 82-63 win over No. 21/20 Oklahoma, Sunday.
The Mountaineers (13-8, 5-5 Big 12) trailed 22-11 in the opening half, when a Bria Holmes’ jumper sparked a 23-5 WVU run into halftime. It was the Mountaineers first lead since the opening minutes, taking a 34-27 halftime lead. In the run, WVU forced seven Oklahoma turnovers while Caldwell and Holmes combined for 19 points. A large part of the OU giveaways was Jess Harlee, who led in the stealing efforts with three in the half.
“In the first half, they just scored at will, caught the ball anywhere they wanted and we let them run their offense. We brought some people off the bench which gave us energy and I thought Bria Holmes came in and gave us some scoring,” coach Mike Carey said.
The Sooners (16-5, 6-3 Big 12) came out of the break shooting as a Morgan Hook three made it a 3-point game, 39-36, with 17:36 left to play. The Mountaineers responded with a 13-4 run over the next six minutes to create a double-digit deficit once again, 52-40. OU recorded five consecutive points to cut the lead to seven at the 11:08 mark, 52-45, the closest it would come for the remainder of the game.
Caldwell led the team in scoring for the 10th time this season with her season-high point total, 15 of which came in the opening half. Holmes matched her career best with 17 points, while Harlee, also off the bench, chipped in 12 points. Holmes and Harlee helped WVU’s bench to its largest production in Big 12 play this season, totaling 40 bench points to OU’s five. Ayana Dunning rounded out WVU’s four double-figure scorers with 11 points.
“Jess Harlee played great off the bench,” Carey explained. “Even Darius (Faulk) only played seven minutes, but played hard and gave us a spark off the bench. I thought our bench did a great job coming off and giving us a spark.”
Dunning and Harlee were each one rebound shy of a double-double with nine boards apiece and each recorded three steals. WVU out-rebounded the Sooners 46-42 and used 13 team steals to help force 17 OU turnovers. The Mountaineers limited their own turnovers to a season-low 10.
“Christal Caldwell, especially in the first half, was aggressive. We need her to do that,” Carey said. “Yaya (Dunning) got it going in the second half and we needed that. Overall, it was a total team effort and I thought all our girls played hard. We felt if we could get up and down the floor on them because they don’t play a lot of people, that we would be able to get some easy ones at the other end.”
Entering the game, OU’s Aaryn Ellenberg led the team in scoring as she averaged 20.9 points per conference game, and was held to only 12 points. Joanna McFarland and Hook co-led the Sooners in scoring with 14 points, while McFarland added a game-leading 16 rebounds for a double-double. The Sooners led the league from beyond the arc, shooting 39.2 percent entering the game, and was held to 22.7 percent on 5-of-22 from 3-point range.
WVU also had five 3-pointers, with two from Caldwell and Holmes and one from Brooke Hampton. The Mountaineers recorded a higher field goal percentage, shooting 42.7 percent (32-75) for the game, to OU’s 34.9 percent (22-63). WVU was 76.5 percent (13-17) successful from the free throw line.
The Mountaineers limited the amount of times they sent OU to the line. In the first outing with the Sooners this season, OU had 39 attempts, while in today’s game, Oklahoma was limited to 20 attempts, shooting 70 percent (14-20).
“Brooke, if you look at her stats, hit a big three when we needed to score right there. She also had five assists which is good and she only turned it over twice,” Carey said. “She distributes the ball well and gets us where we are supposed to be. She did a great job too.”
The Mountaineers will hit the road for a pair of games this week, starting at 8 p.m., on Wednesday, Feb. 6 at Texas Tech. WVU will close out the week with a 3 p.m., game at Kansas on Saturday.