West Virginia opens season with 76-47 win
Published: Monday, November 12, 2012
Updated: Monday, November 12, 2012 09:11
The West Virginia women’s basketball team looked to win its 13th-straight home opener on Friday night as it took on UNC Wilmington at the Coliseum.
For the sixth-consecutive season, the Mountaineers opened the regular season at home. This time around, WVU faced a competitive Seahawks squad.
West Virginia was able to roll to a 76-47 win and start the season 1-0. The Mountaineers have now won their 12th-straight home opener under head coach Mike Carey.
Junior guard Christal Caldwell and her 21 points led WVU against a competitive UNCW squad. While West Virginia only held a 10-point lead going into halftime, the Mountaineers pulled away midway through the second half.
Carey’s team shot 39.7 percent from the field, and 30.8 percent from deep on the night. West Virginia did struggle from the free throw line, as it shot a mere 63.6 percent.
WVU’s lone senior Ayana Dunning contributed a double-double with 11 points and 10 boards. A bright spot for the Mountaineers is the lack of turnovers compared to recent affairs in the preseason. West Virginia turned the ball over 14 times against the Seahawks.
The first basket came from Dunning off a bank shot from long range. From there, WVU was never in fear of losing the game against UNCW. Through constant defensive pressure, the Seahawks had trouble shooting in the first half, going 2-12 from three-point territory, including an array of airballs to the delight of the Mountaineer crowd.
West Virginia was able to force 23 UNCW turnovers. The Mountaineers earned 20 offensive rebounds and won the rebounding advantage 49-36.
WVU was able to contain Seahawks’ star player Karneshia Garrett. She was only able to contribute eight points and six rebounds in 29 minutes. The Mountaineers knew her style of play is to drive to the basket, and the squad reacted well all night – especially in the second half.
"I thought we played a lot better defensively in the second half," said junior guard Taylor Palmer.
Palmer contributed 13 points on the night and shot 50 percent from deep. Last year, the junior was able to contribute 33 points in the season opener.
Now, with a tough nonconference game coming up Monday night against Boston University, the Mountaineers look to move forward after a good win.
"At the end of the night, we had 14 turnovers, and that is the least amount of turnovers we have had in a while, even including last year," Carey said. "Give them credit. They played hard. We stayed out on their shooters pretty good and they only shot 3 for 20. They usually shoot pretty well.
"This is a team that won 20 games and have a lot of people back. Overall, I was happy, but we have a lot of work to do."
In the game, each player earned time with Carey still trying to determine the set rotation. At one point in the second half, the Seahawks cut into the lead to a mere seven with a 38-31 score.
From there, WVU was all business.
"First half, we went up 15, and we are playing so many people, so it doesn’t surprise me that they cut into it," Carey added. "In the second half, we went with some people a little bit longer and built the lead, but I thought it was good to get the freshmen in there and get them on the floor and let them knock the ball off each other, shoot the air balls and throw the ball away, because they have to get in there and get a taste of it."
Junior guard Brooke Hampton came off of the bench to contribute seven points and five assists. Freshman hopeful Bria Holmes came off the bench to contribute seven points, four rebounds and two blocks.
WVU was able to wear down UNCW as the game got more physical and the shots started to fall.
"I think we’re pretty athletic," Carey said. "I think we wore them down in the second half to be honest with you. We just have to execute better on offense. We had a lot of good looks but just missed them. Sometimes we were driving and just throwing it up without any ball movement.
"We picked it up defensively. We did a lot of good things. It’s the typical first game. I thought we ran the floor extremely well."
WVU has little time to rest as it travels to Boston Monday at 7 p.m.