Freshman Stepney’s dominance leads WVU past Louisville
Published: Sunday, February 5, 2012
Updated: Monday, February 6, 2012 02:02
Prior to West Virginia's 66-50 drubbing of No. 12 Louisville, the last time the Mountaineers had beaten a top-15 opponent by double-digits was in February of 2007 when it beat then-No. 8 Rutgers by 16 points.
The Cardinals came into the Coliseum with only two games of fewer than 60 points this season. Both of those occasions were on the road against a top-10 team.
A win like the Mountaineers grabbed Saturday afternoon requires great team defense and players to step up and turn into a season-best performance.
That's exactly what West Virginia got out of freshman point guard Linda Stepney.
The 5-foot-7 Norfolk, Va., native played the best game of her career, turning in a career-high 14 points on 3-of-3 shooting from beyond the arc.
Stepney also managed the game well, dishing out four assists to just two turnovers.
It was a performance that surprised many but not head coach Mike Carey, who said after the game that Stepney's coming-out party has been building for weeks.
"Linda has been getting better as the season has gone on," he said. "The last three games, she has been attacking the rim and doing a great job.
At South Florida, she did an excellent job attacking, and she is just going to get better. She was 3-for-3 from the 3-point line and she can score."
Better known for her ball-handing skills, Stepney thinks Carey's practices have been the key to improving her shooting, and as a result, her scoring outputs as of late.
"I feel like my shot is getting better – it's just because in practice they got on me so much, and I just try to get better in practice so it can carry over to the game," she said.
It's not just her shot that's improving, but also her strength and conditioning. Stepney's stamina has been a challenge this season due to her continuing recovery from a stress fracture in her lower right leg.
Although she still receives daily treatment, Stepney puts the pain out of her mind and just focuses on doing whatever it takes to help the team win.
"Every day (it hurts), but I just don't pay attention to it," she said.
Junior center Asya Bussie, who tallied 18 points and 11 rebounds in the victory, said although Stepney never mentions the injury, she figures it is still on her mind.
"At times, I think it bothers her, but she doesn't really say much about it," she said.
Bussie applauded the performance of the freshman point guard, crediting her for injecting a boost of energy into the team that helped propel them to a win.
"(Stepney) came out with a lot of energy; being a freshman and her just stepping in and playing so well for a big game – I'm proud of her. I think she did really well today," Bussie said.
Carey is most excited with Stepney's increased amount of court time. She has played at least 20 minutes in the past five games – the longest such stretch of the season.
"She is in a little bit better shape now and if you noticed, she is playing a lot more minutes," he said. "She played 29 (tonight), and the other night she played (30) against South Florida.
"She is getting in better shape and she is becoming a leader out there, too. We are very happy with the progress of Linda."
For Stepney, her performance against Louisville was almost ideal – there would be only one category she would have liked to have done better in.
"I would like to have more assists, of course, but as a point guard, two turnovers is not really bad," she said.
"I don't like having turnovers at all."
While the young point guard may not have been perfect in her mind, the Mountaineers' achieved a perfect outcome against Louisville, largely in part to her play.