Column - WVU women jelling at the right time
Published: Sunday, February 5, 2012
Updated: Monday, February 6, 2012 02:02
West Virginia's latest win over No. 12 Louisville exemplified what head coach Mike Carey has been looking for all season.
The Mountaineers' outstanding defensive shutdown of a very good shooting team showed just how dangerous this team can be when everyone is on the same page.
Louisville is 40th in the nation in scoring at 71.7 points per game, and they were held to 50 or less points for just the second time this season.
West Virginia (17-6, 7-3 Big East) turned it on right from the start, breaking out to an early first-half lead. In other games this season, the Mountaineers would start hot and cool off in the second half, allowing the opposing team to make a comeback.
Not this time. WVU was up 38-24 at the half and never looked back, outscoring the Cardinals in the second half as well, something the team has struggled to do this year.
The biggest difference in the game was the support effort of players like freshman guard Linda Stepney and redshirt junior center Ayana Dunning, who had 14 and 11 points, respectively.
It was Stepney's career-high for her young career. Stepney was aggressive and confident form the very start, only committing two turnovers to her four assists.
That's exactly what Carey had expected of Stepney when he first recruited her.
Other players contributed in several ways that don't always get noticed on the statsheet. Freshman Avery Fields, who has successfully played her way onto the court, was in on several picks and screens, while also making efficient passes into the paint, helping out her fellow teammate, junior center Asya Bussie, to score 18 points.
Fields also grabbed four rebounds and had one assist and no turnovers in 10 minutes on the court.
When the supporting cast and other role players are chipping in on both sides of the ball, the Mountaineers are hard to guard and pose problems for opposing teams to matchup because of their versatility and athletic ability.
Although Carey and the team knows they still have to get better, WVU is clicking on all cylinders at the perfect time because it's not going to get any easier.
Next week, the Mountaineers travel to South Bend, Ind., to take on No. 2 Notre Dame and come back to the Coliseum three days later against No. 14 Rutgers.
"Notre Dame is a great team. I want to see our players go down and not be intimidated," Carey said after the game. "Win or lose, I want to go down there, and compete and play because we'll get better. Whether we win or lose that game, we'll get better if we go down there and compete, and learn from that game. We're not going down there to lose, we're going to try to win the game."
The Mountaineers are still a young team, but these girls are more than halfway through the regular season now. They understand what is expected of them and they are competing at a high level of play. Their talent is just starting to come together and the pieces are gradually falling into place, right in time for a possible upset next Sunday.
"They are getting a little bit of confidence," Carey said of his players. "They are paying closer attention to detail, and we have great girls. They are great people, make good grades, but we were young. We are starting to mature a little bit. We have a long way to go. Make no doubt about it: if we keep working in practice, and keep getting better every game, we will win some."