Mountaineers romp in Plitzuweit’s debut

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Dawn Plitzuweit picked up her first victory as West Virginia’s women’s basketball coach Thursday night as the Mountaineers cruised to an 81-31 win over USC Upstate at the Coliseum.

The Mountaineers were defensive-minded in forcing 41 turnovers, including 24 in the first half. The Spartans’ 41 turnovers are the second-highest total West Virginia has ever forced, and it marked the first time a Mountaineer opponent turned it over 40 times since 1979.

“We have three young ladies that can get up and pressure the basketball at a high level, and that allows us to get back and slow teams down,” Plitzuweit said. “Upstate’s first opportunity to play, which was Monday, they got a lot in transition. Madisen Smith, JJ Quinerly, and Imarianah Russell did a great job applying pressure.”

Plitzuweit is in her first season as WVU’s head coach following a six-year stint at South Dakota.

“That weird hour before the game when you are waiting, the team is warming up, and you are waiting for them back in the locker room to get the matchups set. I was not nervous because I thought of the phrase ‘the hay is in the barn,'” Plitzuweit said. “The hay was already in the barn, and we had already done the work. Now, it is a matter of executing and doing what we need to do. We have a lot of confidence in our ability to get stops.”

The Mountaineers used a 10-0 first-quarter run to build a 13-2 lead in the first quarter.

West Virginia held USC Upstate to four points and led by 15 after one quarter.

The second quarter saw the Mountaineers outscore Upstate 18-9 to lead at halftime, 37-13.

“Our guards had to get through screens and make life difficult for their shooters,” Plitzuweit said. “We tried to get some pressure without fouling. It is a combination of a couple of different things.”

The Mountaineers connected on six of their first eight field goals after halftime, which stretched the lead to 36 points with 7:07 left in the third. 

West Virginia left its foot on the gas throughout and outscored Upstate 21-9 to win the final two quarters, 44-18. 

Plitzuweit felt Thursday’s style of play led to the player’s stamina decreasing. While Plitzuweit strives to play without defined positions, she was encouraged with what she saw.

“Our players understand how much energy they need to have,” Plitzuweit stated. “A number of our kids got tired, but it was hard because they were cramping up. We need to learn how to prepare and then recover our bodies. To do that and then come back and play a few days later, which we are not doing now, will be a challenge.”

Smith and Quinerly were the only double-figure scorers from either side. Quinerly led all scorers with 19 points and made 9-of-15 shots. Smith added 11 points and left her new coach impressed. 

“She has been incredibly receptive, and she certainly has a lot of experience,” Plitzuweit said. “Madisen has a great voice. What we are starting to hear now in practices are players saying the things that we are saying. They are taking ownership of it, and she is one of the players doing much of that. That is important for us.”

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