Mountaineers can take positives out of defeat
Published: Tuesday, February 8, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, February 9, 2011 00:02
Heading into Tuesday night's game against No. 2 Connecticut, the No. 17 West Virginia women's basketball team was locked in a two-weeklong, four-game series of games where it didn't do the things it had done all season long.
And, the Mountaineers' record showed that, as they went 1-3 in that stretch.
West Virginia head coach Mike Carey continuously stressed how important it was for his team to regain the hunger that his team had in the first half of the season.
Against the Huskies, it was back.
"We had a great effort tonight. If we had that effort every night, we can compete with anyone," said guard Liz Repella. "If we play that hard every single game and have that effort every game, we would have come into this game undefeated."
That effort that the senior co-captain was talking about started on defense – especially in the first half.
Even with the Huskies shooting more than 50 percent from the field, the Mountaineers were able to head into the locker room with a two-point lead over the Huskies thanks mostly to forcing the nation's No. 2-ranked team into committing 12 turnovers in the game's first 20 minutes.
The Mountaineers also beat Connecticut on the boards, out-rebounding them 37-29.
"Their effort tonight was great, but they killed us on the backboard," said Connecticut head coach Geno Auriemma. "I'm sure they can say, ‘Hey, if we did this to Connecticut, we held Connecticut to 57 points. We ought to be able to do that to anybody we play.'"
Carey agreed with his counterpart.
"Any time you hold a Connecticut team to 57 … you should have a pretty good chance of winning," he said.
And a game like Tuesday night's could pay dividends for the struggling Mountaineers at a time in the season when it was desperately needed.
With just five games to go in the regular season, including three on the road, West Virginia is now 6-5 in Big East Conference play, which puts them in eighth place in the league standings.
Of those five remaining games, three come against teams currently ahead of the Mountaineers in the standings as well as a road game against a Pittsburgh team that came into the Coliseum last Saturday and beat WVU.
That's why Carey believes that the team needs to continue improving on the effort and focus it showed against UConn on Tuesday.
If not, the veteran head coach thinks his team could be in jeopardy of missing the NCAA Tournament.
"We've got to win three or four more Big East games or we're not going to the NCAAs," Carey said. "That's the thing these girls have to understand, they looked at me like they were shocked. We can't have a losing record in the Big East and expect to get in the NCAA.
"We did a lot of good things, but once again, we turned it over and missed assignments."
But, that's the funny thing about games like that.
On the surface, it looks like the Mountaineers are struggling. They've lost four of their last five and are on the verge of being in the bottom half of the Big East standings.
However, after a game like that against the most prolific program in the nation, it looks like West Virginia is slowly making progress toward becoming the team it was at the beginning of the year as March approaches.
And, as we all know, that's when it really counts.