BATON ROUGE, La. — West Virginia’s NCAA second-round jinx was five minutes away from being deader than a possum on the side of I-10.

The end-game blueprint was two-faceted for the Mountaineers: Keep their poise and keep feeding the ball to Asya Bussie. Somehow, neither happened.

What occurred instead was an uncharacteristic meltdown for a veteran team that had chewed up these pressurized moments all season. Then again, March provides its own kind of pressure.

And this time, when LSU charged, WVU caved.

From seven points ahead with 5:05 left, West Virginia swooned to a 76-67 defeat that was dizzying, mystifying and lethally quick.

“We lost our focus,” said Bussie, who scored all of her 21 points in a gigantic second half yet rarely touched the ball during the crucial, closing minutes. “We weren’t defending and we weren’t executing the way we were earlier. Down the stretch we didn’t do things we were supposed to.”

Coach Mike Carey, who the previous day rightfully bragged about his team’s penchant for gutting out close games, witnessed pure panic on offense. Perhaps WVU’s balanced scoring actually became a negative, with proven shooters trying to stop the bleeding when tossing the ball inside to Bussie was the surest tourniquet.

“It’s hard to tell some of your good players that are wide-open on the perimeter not to take the shot when they’ve hit them all year,” he said. “But we’ve got to be smart enough to go inside. Asya was just dominating inside the second half.”

Christal Caldwell, just 48 hours removed from scoring a career-high 26 points, closed out her career by shooting only 3-of-19. Her five misses during LSU’s 20-4 closing run included a 14-foot air ball in the lane and traveling violation that negated another drive.

“I feel like I rushed a couple, and probably took some bad shots,” she said. “At the end of the day I just didn’t make them.”

But such a pronounced collapse wasn’t merely of the offense’s doing—not when LSU scored on its 10 final possessions. The Tigers made 6-of-9 shots during their surge and got offensive rebounds on all three misses.

“We just stopped rebounding—just didn’t box out,” Carey said. “We started giving them second and third shots. It’s hard to beat somebody when they 38 points in the paint.”

Despite paralyzing foul trouble and losing a concussed starter, LSU simply proved more resilient. Sophomore point guard Danielle Ballard scored 22 points, chased down 15 rebounds and made six assists. Forward Shanece McKinney finished with 13 points, seven rebounds and five blocks. And then there was reserve Jasmine Rhodes—held scoreless in her five previous games—contributing 11 points in relief of guard Jeanne Kenney, who left after taking a first-half bump to the head.

“They chose to dig a little deeper and give a little more for Jeanne,” LSU coach Nikki Caldwell said. “I’m extremely proud of this team for realizing how great they can be.”

How great a team West Virginia was instantly becomes debatable. That’s the cruel side of the NCAA tournament, where a few muddled minutes can sour the legacy of a historic season.

“I hate it,” said Christal Caldwell. “Just to know deep down in my heart that we did not play our best game and we did not do some things we’ve done all year. To go out like that really hurts.”

Especially after grousing about a perceived lack of respect ever since the brackets came down eight days ago. Carey led that rhetoric, partly to keep his players hungry in spite of their top-10 ranking. He realized lasting respect would only come with an extended tournament run.

That respect was so close Tuesday night, merely a few poised possessions removed from a Sweet 16. But unlike previous times this season, Carey’s 30-win team didn’t find the resolve to secure No. 31.

“It’s tough,” he said. “Nothing against LSU—they deserve a lot of credit—but I felt we gave one away.”

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Comments

  • mad hatter

    Great job ladies, you make us very proud of your accomplishments this year.We certainly look to you for inspiration going into next year.
    You have a great coach, and a great team, don't hang your heads, you have accomplished more than any previous eer team.. Be proud. Nothing at all neg. about this year, smile, and enjoy, and pay no attention to people like aaron who doubt you.

  • Aaron

    The part I think that hurts is that legitimately, this team had a real shot at going to the Final Four if they play like they are capable. That was a tough one to watch but I give credit to LSU. They played a tremendous zone defense to take away the inside game. It's easy to say feed it to Bussie, which I did, but it's another when she has 3 players surrounding her every time the ball comes to her side of the floor.

    It was a great run though. From a basketball standpoint, I love to watch the ladies play the game it's more than chucking 3's and driving to the basket. Last night, in the last 5 minutes, for whatever reason, our Mountaineers failed to execute what they are capable of doing.

    Thank you for a wonderful season. I know we lose 5 Seniors but we have players coming back as well as at least one Top 50 recruit. Hopefully Coach Carey can get this program to the point that we don't rebuild, we reload.

    As always, it's a great day to be a Mountaineer.

    • Say What

      When you have three defenders on you, what are the other two doing with your four teammates?

    • Shinnston Guy

      Well stated, it was a great season. That being said, this loss should sting both the players and the coaching staff because it stings us as fans! I won't second guess anyone but I didn't sleep well last night after watching it. Time for baseball!

      • Aaron

        Me either. As I said on another thread, that one hurt.

  • jay zoom

    Ladies I noticed a tear at the end of the game. You should be standing tall (which I know you are) because you all are winners and you made WV proud. Life is just beginning for some of you in your future and I know you will all excel no matter what you do with your life.

  • jay zoom

    (to not a fan) I guess if you have/had a daughter who was interested in sports you wouldn't support her. But you noticed #32 for LSU tattoo so evidently you care something or you wouldn't be watching it. Their were NIT Games on as well hockey. Any way your nothing but a (JACK ASS) or an ASS 0 take your pick.

    • Not a fan

      I just noticed it in the pic above, never saw a second of the game.

      • Aaron

        Had you watched the game, you would have seen an excellent basketball player that would likely embarrass you on the court.

  • WVU fan in Boston

    Lady Mountaineers thank you for a great season! Seniors thank you for choosing to represent WVU and WV. Much success to you as you advance your professional careers!
    To the underclass women, you have big shoes to fill next season, work hard during the off seasoon. Coaches it is your time to recruit.

    Again, thanks for the exciting season!

  • ThatGuyOverThere

    We played at LSU's home court...we were a 2 seed, they were a 7...That isn't right...

    • Mitch

      @ThatGuyOverThere,

      Welll....apparently it was right.

  • TruthTeller

    Who is calling the shots? Some one high up is controlling the success of WVU. Why is it that WVU has all this talent and yet when it comes to advancing or winning championships some
    how they don't play like normal as if someone made a phone call and made a financial threat.
    How can a team be playing great and then fall flat on its face? Something is not right at WVU for sure.

    • Mike Murphy

      That should be BS at Truth Teller.

      • Master of One

        The next time I want your opinion...I'll give it to you...

        These young whippersnappers have so much to learn.

    • Mike Murphy

      I call BS, Master of One. You really believe some nefarious plot is against WVU? The ladies didn't have great luck, but give credit to LSU.

    • Master of One

      That is called "Politics in High Places"

      I watched the game...The WVU team had LSU ON THE ROPES and the last 10 minutes of the game they (WVU) stood around and did nothing...

      It was a COMPLETE MELTDOWN.

  • Not a fan

    No. 32 for LSU has a nice "gut tatt".

  • WVU FAN

    Great run girls!!!!

    I am proud of the way you girls played together as a team all season long.

    WVU Proud!!!

  • Say What

    Enough whining about where the game was played already. No excuse for the bad night of Bball our team played. It's over, we lost, we go home. Had a great year, but it does hurt to end the season making the other team look like the veterans.

  • Gunga Din

    0-8 all time in second-round NCAA Tournament games. You can make all the excuses you'd like, the bottom line is that the women's team chokes when it matters the most.

  • Not a fan

    Sorry, and you can call me sexist if you want, but I just don't care about womens sports, at all. I think a lot of people feel the same way I do, but I know it's not politically correct to say it.

    • LadiesFan

      There are a lot of us that do care, they are fun to watch and very talented. I'd bet my paycheck you can't outshoot them. Plus any Mountaineer team in any sport is worth rooting for.

      • Not a fan

        The difference in the speed and athleticism from the mens game is remarkable, I truly believe a good high school boys team would beat most any womens basketball team, college or pro.

        • Aaron

          I don't know how to be politically correct on this one.

          That is one of the most idiotic statements I have read on Metro news, and that's saying a lot.

          • Not a fan

            I'd be willing to bet money on it, and for sure any Division 3 mens team would beat the best Womens team, college or pro.

          • mad hatter

            u have posted worse

        • Mike

          Let's just call you sexist and leave it at that. You probably also shy away from any team that starts 5 African-Americans. Bigotry usually shows itself in more than one form.

          • Not a fan

            Not at all, I couldn't be a sports fan if I were that way, except maybe hockey.

        • Mike

          So you don't watch women's basketball because of the difference between the men's game? By that logic you shouldn't watch any college game because it's less than the pros, nor any H.S. game because it's less than college.

  • CaptainQ

    Watching the final ten minutes of this game on TV was brutal. The Lady Mountaineers somehow managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Still, even with this loss, the Lady Mountaineers still archived more this season than their male hardcourt counterparts (one-and-done in the NIT) and the Football team (4-8).

    Great season, gals!

  • Fire Huggy

    I think it was garbage that LSU had basically a home game.

    • Michael

      Basically??? It WAS a home game!

  • Mike

    Coach is right, gave this one away. Total collapse at the end - 16 point swing in the final 5 minutes. Still wasn't right to be playing on their home court. NCAA should be more fair. But great season, something for all Mountaineers to be proud.

    • Allen

      Home court is no issue. Play the game. LSU had 2 big's with 4 fouls and Carey forgets he should go inside. Poor coaching at the end of the game.

      • Aaron

        Did he tell players NOT to throw the ball into Bussie?

        • mad hatter

          did he tell players TO throw the ball into Bussie?

    • Troll

      Life's not fair, wah, wah, wah. You have to take what life throws at you and make the best of it, the ladies had a good run this season now it's over, time to move on.