By Wendell Barnhouse
DALLAS - West Virginia made sure that Texas Tech did not get the sweep.
The seventh-seeded Mountaineers lost both games to the Lady Raiders during the regular season but Friday night they kept their season alive with a 59-40 first-round victory in the Phillips 66 Big 12 Women’s Championship.
“To get beat twice in our conference (by the same team) is not something that we're proud of,” West Virginia’s Averee Fields said. “So to come to this game knowing that it's win or go home, we definitely had a different mindset.”
The Mountaineers (18-13) will face No. 2 seed Oklahoma in the quarterfinals at 6 p.m. Saturday. The teams split the season series, each winning on their home courts. In West Virginia’s victory in Morgantown, it scored the most points (78) that it tallied in 18 Big 12 games.
West Virginia coach Mike Carey said that the Lady Raiders’ effort was superior in their two victories over his team. That wasn’t the case the third time.
“I thought our effort was tremendous,” he said. “Tonight I thought we played hard.”
For the Mountaineers, the first half was hard. West Virginia committed 14 turnovers , three more than Texas Tech. The ragged play prevented both teams from establishing an offensive flow.
“We've got to keep the game close, and eventually we start hitting shots but we've got to keep the game close,” said Carey, whose team led at halftime, 27-24.
West Virginia broke open a tie game with a 25-5 run during the first 12 minutes of the second half. After Amber Battle’s two free throws tied the game at 27-all with 18:10 left in the half, the Mountaineers took control.
Bria Holmes, the Big 12’s second-leading scorer, banked home two 3-pointers that were sandwiched around a basket by Fields to help fuel the WVU run. Texas Tech missed eight of nine shots as the Mountaineers put their foot on the accelerator.
After Fields’ second banked three, she covered her mouth to hide her smile.
“I think hitting a bank shot three is once in a game, so she hit two in a row and I think we laughed because what are the odds of that?” Fields said of her teammate.
“I did tell them at the timeout, if she does it the third time, she's going to have to call it,” Carey said.
Holmes scored 21 to lead West Virginia but also had seven of her team’s 21 turnovers. Plus she suffered a leg injury late in the game.
"We were told she couldn't go back in, so the extent of her injury, I don't know," Carey said.
Ivonne CookTaylor had 20 points for Texas Tech (15-16), which lost its first game in the Big 12 Championship for the third consecutive year. The Lady Raiders were 4-of-23 from the field (17.4 percent) in the second half and finished at 26.4 percent from the game. Battle, who had 33 against West Virginia in an earlier meeting, scored just 11.
“They're tough defensively when they can switch and pressure you and try to take away the things that you normally get,” Texas Tech coach Candi Whittaker said. “They went with a lineup without their big (6-5 center Lanay Montgomery) where they switch everything and we had trouble with that lineup.”