The West Virginia women’s basketball team had a historic 2013-14 campaign, but in the way the season ended, it would be hard to script it as a complete success.
The No. 2-seeded Mountaineers fell to No. 7-seeded LSU in the NCAA tournament second round. For West Virginia, the game was lost in the paint.
“You can’t give up 24 offensive rebounds,” said WVU head coach Mike Carey. “We quit getting the ball inside, and we had it going the second half, got the lead and quit going inside. They (the Mountaineers) had a heck of a year, won 30 basketball games. We felt like we gave one away here today, but congratulations to LSU.”
West Virginia finished the season with a 30-5 record, good for most wins in program history. West Virginia also claimed a share of the Big 12 Conference regular season title with Baylor.
With 4:54 remaining in the game, WVU had a seven-point lead, but thanks to LSU’s 20-4 run to end the game, the Lady Tigers were able to advance.
LSU’s sophomore guard Danielle Ballard led the way with 22 points and 15 rebounds, her second consecutive double-double. The Lady Tigers missed only two free throws all game (20-22), and took advantage of the Mountaineers’ shooting struggles.
Ballard had 24 points and 17 rebounds in LSU’s opening round win over Georgia Tech.
In her final game in a West Virginia uniform, center Asya Bussie had 21 points and eight rebounds. Carey said the team got away from feeding their star player in the post, especially with the LSU forwards in foul trouble.
WVU was able to force 18 LSU turnovers, but the main problem for the Mountaineers was on the glass. LSU had a 55-40 rebounding advantage and a 38-24 advantage for points in the paint.
“We just lost our focus and weren’t defending,” Bussie said. “Just down the stretch, we didn’t do the things we were supposed to do.”
West Virginia struggled from the field for much of the game, shooting 30.2 percent in the loss (19-63). The Mountaineers shot 22.7 percent from beyond the arc and missed eight free throws.
Senior guard Christal Caldwell had a difficult outing Tuesday, shooting 3-of-19 from the field and 1-of-9 from 3-point range. She finished with 10 points.
“I hate it,” she said of how her career ended. “I know deep down in our hearts we didn’t play the best game and didn’t do some of the things we did all year long. It hurts to go out like that.”
While WVU accomplished many feats in the 2013-14 season, the end result came as a disappointment.