WVU committed to rejuvenated brand of play
Published: Monday, February 4, 2013
Updated: Monday, February 4, 2013 00:02
I have to be totally honest: After watching the first 10 minutes of yesterday’s women’s game between West Virginia and Oklahoma, I thought it was going to be more of the same flat, monotonous play that has plagued the Mountaineers for the majority of the season.
This team has played well, and poorly, never achieving a level of consistency that is a prerequisite for success in the Big 12 Conference.
Trailing by double digits, it appeared the Mountaineers were doomed for another conference loss, serving as yet another blow to the team’s postseason prospects.
Boy, was I wrong.
Forget about the West Virginia team you saw the early part of the season. Everything that happened in the past – the weak finishes in the second half and the squandering of leads – I’m ready to move past.
This is a new team.
There is a phenomenon in the study of enzymes called "the committed step," in which an irreversible reaction occurs at decision, or branch, point in the formulation of some molecules.
In other words, there’s no going back. The path of the molecules are set, moving forward in a new way.
This team has taken the committed step. It happened Sunday, and there’s no going back.
West Virginia has won consecutive games against ranked opponents – including a tremendously difficult road win against Oklahoma State, which had lost only five times in 77 home games before the Mountaineers’ breakthrough last week.
Oklahoma pulled out a 3-point victory against the Mountaineers in Norman, Okla., but Sunday, West Virginia would not be denied.
A 23-5 run in the final nine minutes of the first half catapulted the Mountaineers to a seven-point halftime lead.
In the second half, West Virginia didn’t let up, instead punching on the accelerator and finishing the contest with a 19-point whomping that had the scent of revenge all over it.
After the game, West Virginia head coach Mike Carey shared the team’s new philosophy that will follow them into March.
"We just want to continue to be aggressive," he said. "We’re not playing anymore not to lose.
"We’re not going to stand there and try not to lose a game anymore, and that’s what we had been doing. We have to keep attacking."
The West Virginia team of old didn’t have the kill switch that was flipped Sunday. It didn’t have the gutsy bench play – 40 points in all Sunday – that can flip a game in your favor.
Despite a height disadvantage, the Mountaineers owned the paint, besting Oklahoma 44-26 from inside. Nine players scored for West Virginia, including four who finished in double-digits.
It was the balanced, efficient, physical, energy-filled style of play Carey has been looking for all season. Oklahoma head coach Sherri Coale summed it up best when she described the Sooners’ struggles with West Virginia’s press.
"We just weren’t tough enough to survive the inbounds pressure," she said.
Frankly, there aren’t many teams in the Big 12 that wouldn’t have succumbed to the Mountaineers’ rejuvenated brand of pressure Sunday.
This season West Virginia has lost to Iowa State and Texas Tech by four points, Oklahoma by three points and Kansas by one point.
After the win, redshirt junior guard Christal Caldwell, who finished with a game-high 24 points in the win, described how she felt about having to play conference foes twice per season.
"I love it," she said. "We let one slip away at Oklahoma and came here on our home court and took care of business, and we have to do that with a few more teams."
That sounds like a player and a team committed to exacting revenge in the same fashion as it did Sunday against Oklahoma.