Streaking WVU ready for Big 12 competition
For the first eight minutes of the second half against Duquesne, the West Virginia women's basketball team was unstoppable.
They ended the first half with an eight-point lead on the road. Six minutes into the second half, the lead was 26.
WVU was quick, accurate and aggressive, and the Dukes didn't know how to respond.
“I think you saw how good we can be when we're rolling and we're playing that first eight minutes of the second half,” Mountaineers coach Mike Carey said after the Dec. 21 game.
So does that give Carey confidence in what his team will be able to do once Big 12 play begins?
“I'm going to say it does because it's Christmas,” Carey said. “The problem is you have to play like that for 38 minutes. But I'll take that right now.”
Duquesne fought back, but the Mountaineers left Pittsburgh with an 88-80 win. It was their 10th victory in a row, matching the fifth-highest win streak in West Virginia history. The last time they won 10 in a row was in 2010-11, when they won 16 straight.
Heading into the final nonconference game of the season against Elon on Sunday, West Virginia has lost just once this year.
The lone blemish came against Ohio State, 70-61, in the first game of the year. Conference play, and the push to build on a program-record four consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances, begins Jan. 2 at Kansas.
“I think (a lot of the credit for the winning streak) was just learning from the first game, knowing that we can be beat and just coming out focused every game,” senior center Asya Bussie said. “I think that first loss was an eye-opener for us.”
Bussie is enjoying a solid comeback season after missing all of last year with an ACL injury. The 6-foot-4 center leads the team in scoring (14.2 points per game), rebounding (7.8 per game) and blocks (20). She is on the Naismith Trophy early-season watch list.
They also return nine letterwinners and four starters from the 2012-13 season. In addition to Bussie, sophomore guard Bria Holmes (13.7 ppg), senior guard Christal Caldwell (13.1) and senior guard Taylor Palmer (12.9) are averaging in double figures.
The Mountaineers have shot at least 40 percent from the field in every game since the season-opening loss.
But Carey's teams always begin with defense, and this year's squad is no different. Duquesne's 80 points were the most West Virginia has allowed all season. The Mountaineers have held eight opponents to fewer than 60 points, and the second most they gave up was the 70 to Ohio State.
“We're a good defensive team, but I haven't seen us give up 50 points for a long, long time,” Carey said. “We have to get focused again, we have to work on boxing out, obviously. Offensively we have to work on attacking, spacing; we have a lot of work to do. We're way off.
“We've got a long way to go. But I like where we're at right now. At least we're winning right now. We just have to continue to work hard in practice.”