No. 7 WVU Defeats Texas in Big 12 Semi
By CLIFF BRUNT
AP Sports Writer
OKLAHOMA CITY – Bria Holmes wasn’t herself Saturday.
All was well Sunday. The sophomore guard scored 23 points to help No. 7 West Virginia beat Texas 67-60 in the Big 12 tournament semifinals.
Holmes scored just seven points and made 2 of 8 field goals in 17 minutes in a quarterfinal victory against TCU on Saturday.
A day later, West Virginia’s top scorer was 6 of 11 from the field and made 9 of 14 free throws while putting the Longhorns in foul trouble.
“I came out (Sunday) ready and focused again, ready to play again,” Holmes said. “I noticed my outside shot wasn’t falling (Saturday), so, I decided to attack the basket more.”
Christal Caldwell added 15 points for the Mountaineers (29-3). West Virginia outscored Texas 28-14 from the free-throw line to win its 12th straight.
West Virginia advanced to play No. 9 Baylor in the championship game tonight. Baylor advanced by beating No. 18 Oklahoma State 65-61 earlier Sunday.
The Mountaineers will try to win the tournament in their second year in the Big 12.
Top-seeded Baylor and second-seeded West Virginia shared the regular-season title.
Texas’ normally dominant posts struggled Sunday against West Virginia.
Nneka Enemkpali, a 6-foot-1 junior who was an all-conference first-team pick, had six points and four rebounds. Imani McGee-Stafford, a 6-7 sophomore and an all-conference second-team selection, had five points and six rebounds.
Chassidy Fussell scored 15 points, and Nekia Jones added 14 for the Longhorns (21-11).
Texas coach Karen Aston said it wasn’t Texas’ best game. She liked the fact that her team kept it close when things weren’t going smoothly.
“We really didn’t play well,” she said. “A lot of that had to do with West Virginia, but some of it had to do with our composure offensively wasn’t very good. But I’m really proud that we didn’t give up and didn’t get to a point where we got dejected.”
It was the rubber match in a tight series. West Virginia won the first regular-season meeting 56-49 in overtime at home, and Texas won the rematch 66-63 in Austin.
“Well, the two games we played Texas before, it was physical, wasn’t pretty, so it doesn’t surprise me this wasn’t a very pretty game,” West Virginia coach Mike Carey said. “Both teams played pretty good defense, both teams go inside a lot, and that type of stuff, and there’s a lot of banging.”
West Virginia led 28-21 at halftime. Neither team shot well in the first 20 minutes – Texas made 8 of 24 shots, and West Virginia was 8 of 26. West Virginia outscored Texas 9-3 on free throws before the break. Jones, a reserve, scored nine points in the first half to help Texas stay in the game.
West Virginia increased its lead to 37-28 on a jumper by Caldwell, yet Texas hung tough. Jones’ 3-point play cut it to 44-43 with just under 12 minutes to play, but Linda Stepney answered with a 3-point play on the other end.
West Virginia temporarily regained control with a 3-point play by Holmes to go up 55-46 with about eight minutes remaining.
Fussell converted a 3-point play with 5:39 to play, trimming West Virginia’s edge to 56-51, and Kelsey Lang’s layup on Texas’ next trip down the floor caused West Virginia to call a timeout. Texas chopped the Mountaineers’ lead to one, but Fussell fouled out with 3:49 to play.
Texas had the ball, down two, but Celina Rodrigo missed a 3-pointer, and Caldwell made two free throws at the other end with 32 seconds remaining to give the Mountaineers a four-point lead and the control they needed.
Now, West Virginia must deal with Baylor’s Odyssey Sims. The Big 12 Player of the Year scored a combined 86 points in two games against the Mountaineers this season. West Virginia defeated Baylor 71-69 in Waco on March 2 in Sims’ last home game to get in position to share the conference regular-season title with the Lady Bears.
“Odyssey is going to come out strong,” Caldwell said. “She let one go with her team on Senior Night, so I’m sure that’s still on her mind.”