By Wendell Barnhouse | email@example.com
OKLAHOMA CITY – A great line from the stage play/movie “Glengarry, Glen Ross”: “Coffee is for closers.”
Applying that quote to West Virginia, the Mountaineers might be the most caffeinated team in the Big 12 Conference.
Throughout a season that brought West Virginia its first regular-season conference title in a major sport, the Mountaineers have shown the ability to make the plays that are the difference between winning and losing. That was again on display Sunday.
The No. 2 seed in the Phillips 66 Big 12 Women’s Basketball Championship advanced to Monday night’s title game with a grind-it-out 67-60 victory over No. 3 seed Texas. The Mountaineers (29-3) will face top-seeded Baylor at 8 p.m. (FOX Sports 1).
West Virginia one its 12th consecutive game following a typical formula: defense, balanced scoring, strong contributions off the bench. The Longhorns (21-11) were one of two teams that beat the Mountaineers during Big 12 play; Baylor was the other.
“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. “Down the stretch, always I feel good. We've had a lot of games this year under four minutes close, either behind or close, and we've been able to win a bunch of them. “
The second half of the second semifinal at Chesapeake Energy Arena was similar to the second half of the first game when Oklahoma State could never take the lead against Baylor. West Virginia would extend its lead to seven or nine points and UT would cut it to three or five.
When West Virginia went up 56-46 with 7:53 remaining, it was a spirit/gut check for the Longhorns.
“I feel really good about our team,” Texas coach Karen Aston said. “ I thought that they really came here to win the tournament. They didn't come here just to win a game. They're an extremely disappointed group right now. They're not ready to go home. “
UT responded to West Virginia’s 10-point lead with an 11-2 run capped by two free throws from Chassidy Fussell (15 points) with just under four minutes remaining. Fussell, though, fouled out on the ensuing possession and Christal Caldwell made two free throws to put West Virginia ahead, 60-57.
The Longhorns committed three of their 18 turnovers over the last 2:51 to short circuit any further rallies.
West Virginia sophomore Bria Holmes, the team’s leading scorer, had just seven points in 17 minutes in the quarterfinal victory over TCU. She scored 23 against Texas, going 9-of-14 on free throws. The Mountaineers were 28-of-37 from the line, the Longhorns were 14-of-19.
“I came out today ready and focused again, ready to play again,” Holmes said. “I noticed my outside shot wasn't falling yesterday, so today I decided to attack the basket more.”
The Mountaineers limited Texas’ top post players Nneka Enemkpali and Imani McGee-Stafford. They were combining to average 23 points and 16 rebounds per game. They combined for 11 points and 10 rebounds.
“I thought they did a terrific job denying our post players the ball,” Aston said. “I thought we were impatient, really, really impatient in the first half and didn't let the offense flow.”