WVU Advances to Big 12 Championship

  • By Katie Kane
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  • March 09, 2014 09:34 PM
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West Virginia 67, Texas 60
Postgame Media
Postgame Recap (3:34)
OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla.The No. 7 West Virginia women’s basketball team used a 67-60 victory to eliminate Texas from the Phillips 66 Big 12 Women’s Basketball Semifinals, Sunday.
WVU advances to face No. 9, and top-seeded, Baylor in the Championship Game, at 9 p.m. ET, Monday. It will be WVU’s fourth appearance in a conference tournament championship game in program history, and third appearance under the direction of coach Mike Carey. West Virginia’s last championship appearance was in 2010 when WVU fell to No. 1-seeded Connecticut in Hartford, Conn.
With a 29-3 overall record, the Mountaineers have now matched the 2010 team for most wins in a single season.
“Well, the two games we played with Texas before were physical, and weren’t pretty, so it didn’t surprise me that this wasn't a very pretty game,” coach Carey said. “Both teams play pretty good defense, both teams go inside a lot and there's a lot of banging. We were able to get a lead, Texas cut in there at the end, and then we were able to hit foul shots and make some big buckets.
“I’m very proud of these players. I always feel good, especially with these players, down the stretch if it's close. We've had a lot of games this year under four minutes close, either behind or close, and we've been able to win a bunch of them.”
The Mountaineers came out of halftime with a 28-21 lead, and were able to grab their largest lead of the game, 31-21, on a Bria Holmes’ three early in the second half. However, West Virginia had to fend off a trio of second-half Longhorn runs.
Texas cut the lead to one, 44-43, for the first time with 11:36 left, but the Mountaineers responded with an 11-3 run of their own.
UT used a 13-2 run to cut the lead to one, for a second time, 58-57, with four minutes remaining, before WVU stretched the gap out to five, 62-57, with 2:39 left.
Texas then cut a 10-point deficit to two, 62-60, with 1:31 to play, before the Mountaineers ended the game on a 5-0 run, making 5-of-6 from the free throw line. The Longhorns missed four 3-point attempts in the final 35 seconds.
“I just felt we didn't execute as well as we should have going down the stretch to let them back in, but give them credit, too, they put pressure on us,” coach Carey explained. “At the end I thought our players stepped up. They tried to press us, but their press didn't hurt us. They ended up fouling us, and we were able to go to the line and hit the foul shots.”
Holmes paved the way for WVU with 23 points, her seventh 20-point game this season. Senior Christal Caldwell added 15 points and five rebounds, while senior guard Taylor Palmer chipped in 10 points off the bench – her second straight double-digit scoring effort in the tournament. Senior center Asya Bussie set WVU’s women’s basketball program record with 135 career games played, adding nine points for the Mountaineers.
Texas shot just 38.2 percent from field for the game, and committed 18 turnovers, leading to 23 WVU points off giveaways. The Longhorns’ 27 personal fouls proved costly as West Virginia took advantage at the free throw line.
The Mountaineers shot 36.2 percent (17-47) from the field, but connected on 28-of-37 free throw attempts, breaking the record for most free throws made in a single season in program history with 563. The previous record was 541 set in 1997.
Texas outrebounded West Virginia, 41-29, and held a 32-16 advantage for points in the paint.
Chassidy Fussell led the Longhorns with 15 points, while Nekia Jones added 14 off the bench. Texas’ season-leading scorer Nneka Enemkpali averaged 12.5 points per game entering the semis, but was limited to only six points in 27 minutes, before fouling out with 3:49 left. Behind Enemkpali, Imani McGee-Stafford entered the game with 10.8 points per game, and was held to only five points in 21 minutes. McGee-Stafford led all players with six rebounds and added four blocked shots.
West Virginia improved to 4-2 all-time against Texas and 2-1 this season. With the loss, the Longhorns fell to 21-11 overall.
Monday’s championship game will air live nationally on Fox Sports 1. The game will also air live free with the Mountaineer Sports Network from IMG online at WVUsports.com, with Jeff Culhane and Meg Bulger on the call. In Morgantown, the game will air live on 100.9 WSZT-FM, in Cumberland, Md., on WCBC-AM 1270, in Parkersburg on WADC-AM 1050 and in Charleston on WSCW-AM 1410 and WJYP-AM 1300.