NORMAN, Okla. — The WVU women’s basketball team built a nine-point second-half lead but couldn’t hold it as No. 17 Oklahoma rallied for a 71-68 win in the Big 12 opener Wednesday night.
Guard Taylor Palmer scored 24 of her 30 points in the first half as WVU built a 39-36 lead, which it stretched to 47-38 with 15:32 remaining. But the aggressive Sooners (11-2, 1-0) fought back thanks to a huge night at the foul line, making 31-of-39 free throws. The Mountaineers (8-4, 0-1) were only 9-of-13.
“Give Oklahoma credit — they fought back,” West Virginia coach Mike Carey said. “We got into foul trouble and we just have to do a better job of defending without fouling. We didn’t do a good job on the boards and when we let them tie it, we kind of got shook up. You can’t put them at the line 39 times and win a game.”
Aaryn Ellenberg paced OU with 19 points, including 9-of-10 from the foul line, and Sharane Campbell added 17 points and 12 rebounds.
The Mountaineers led until the final 4:55 when the Sooners used a 7-0 run to move ahead 67-60. WVU drew within 68-67 o a 3-pointer by Brooke Hampton with 1:19 left, but the Mountaineers missed their final three shots.
“I thought our girls came out and played hard, I really did. Just the last five minutes we didn’t play smart,” Carey said. “Taylor (Palmer) came out and shot extremely well. She was under control and had a lot of good looks.”
Palmer matched her career best with eight 3-pointers, picking up the slack as Christal Caldwell (nine points) and Ayana Dunning (five points) sat with foul trouble. Akilah Bethel added seven points off the bench while Jess Harlee had six points and six rebounds.
“Christal Caldwell is another scorer for us and she was out of the game with foul trouble and that really hurt us scoring-wise. YaYa Dunning is another one we usually go inside to and she was out with foul trouble,” Carey said.
“I thought our other girls came in off the bench and played hard and I thought Oklahoma played hard, so there are going to be some great games in the Big 12.”
The Mountaineers shot 36.2 percent for the game while Oklahoma made 43.2 percent and won the rebounding battle 44-31, with Joanna McFarland grabbing a game-high 13 boards.
West Virginia returns home for a Saturday 7:30 p.m. matchup against Kansas at the WVU Coliseum.