No. 1 Baylor presents big challenge
Published: Wednesday, January 16, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, January 16, 2013 00:01
Last year, the West Virginia women’s basketball team went on the road to then-No. 2 Notre Dame and did something it hadn’t ever done in program history – it won.
It was a stunning upset – one Notre Dame would make up for with a 28-point blasting of the Mountaineers in the Big East Conference tournament – but the win was a major milestone for the Mountaineer women’s basketball team and served as a great boon for head coach Mike Carey and the direction of the program.
West Virginia will once again try to surprise the women’s college basketball world Saturday and knock off No. 1 Baylor – the defending national champions and the most well-known, culturally relevant women’s basketball team in the country.
Everyone knows about 6-foot-8 senior center Brittany Griner – a three-time first team all-American and one of the most dominating women’s basketball players of the decade.
However, there’s more to the Bears than just Griner. Baylor returned all five starters from last season’s 40-0 team, and they’re playing just as well as last year.
Baylor is outscoring opponents by more than 30 points per game, and three players average double-figure scoring per matchup.
It’s a tall order to ask any team in the country to play Baylor and not get embarrassed, let alone actually try to win.
Carey and the Mountaineers are no stranger to juggernaut-style opponents, such as the UConn teams of the past decade; he will have the Mountaineers in position to play a competitive game.
One thing that will helpWVU in their quest to make history again is a hot start.
In last night’s 58-50 win against TCU, the Mountaineers played the first five minutes at a blistering offensive pace, notching 5-of-5 three-point tries and connecting on 7-of-8 field goal attempts.
It seemed like the Mountaineers might not miss again but then the hot start faded, and West Virginia shot 4-of-19 from the field for the next 15 minutes of the first half.
So, to add a disclaimer to the hot start thing, the West Virginia offense can’t afford to slack off as the game wears on.
The Mountaineers had the opportunity to blow last night’s game wide open before the teams took to the locker room for halftime but instead, West Virginia turned the ball over 13 times, played spotty defense and let TCU keep itself in the game.
The 12-point lead nine minutes into the game disappeared, and the Horned Frogs parlayed the Mountaineers’ misfortunes into a 27-27 halftime score.
At that point, the hot start was all but a memory.
In the second half, West Virginia made only 2-of-11 3-point attempts; luckily for the Mountaineers, TCU shot a paltry 6-of-32 from the field in the second half – a poor showing Baylor’s offense certainly won’t emulate.
With a little more than three minutes to play, TCU trailed by only two points – a dangerous position the game should have never reached.
As the Mountaineers discovered last night, an opponent that stays competitive and keeps the score within a reasonable range is a tough one to kill.
It is the same strategy that West Virginia used to knock off Notre Dame last season, and the same one it will try and incorporate against Baylor.
All things considered, West Virginia scrapped and fought its way to an 8-point conference victory Tuesday. However, the box score reeks of a team that played careless and inconsistent basketball.
It was the type of game that West Virginia can’t – and won’t – play come Saturday.