Junior Christal Caldwell paved the way with a game-leading 21 points, as the West Virginia women's basketball team defeated UNC Wilmington 76-47 in the 2012-13 season opener, Friday, at the WVU Coliseum.
Senior Ayana Dunning set the tone for the Mountaineers (1-0) as she banked a 3-pointer in the first 47 seconds of the game to spark a 6-0 run. WVU never let up, taking a 31-21 lead into the locker room at the half. The Seahawks (0-1) came out of haltime looking to close the gap, and was successful in chipping the lead down to seven (38-31) at the 14:40 mark, but couldn't hold on as WVU continued with different lineups to pull away into a double-digit deficit for the remainder of the game.
"First half, we went up 15 and we are playing so many people, so it doesn't surprise me that they cut in to it," coach Mike Carey explained. "In the second half, we went with some people a little bit longer and built the lead, but I thought it was good to get the freshmen in there and get them on the floor and let them knock the ball off each other, shoot the air balls and throw the ball away because they have to get in there and get a taste of it. Next game, they will play better and then the next game, they will play better."
Caldwell shot 7-for-15 from the field, including a pair of threes, five free throws and three steals in her offensive effort. Junior Taylor Palmer added 13 points with three treys, all in the second half. Dunning rounded out the game's top three scorers as she recorded the sixth double-double of her career with 11 points and a game-leading 10 rebounds.
Junior Brooke Hampton came in off the bench to contribute seven points and five assists, while Crystal Leary, another spark from the bench, pulled down seven rebounds, including six on the offensive end. WVU's 20 offensive boards proved to help as the Mountaineers scored 17 second-chance points and dominated the paint with 32 points to UNCW's 14.
WVU out-rebounded UNC Wilmington 49-36 and won the turnover battle, forcing 23 turnovers, while limiting its own to 14. The Mountaineers shot 39.7 percent (27-68) from the field, while the Seahawks shot 28 percent (14-50). WVU made 30.8 percent (8-26) from beyond the arc, while limiting UNCW to only 15 percent (3-20) from 3-point range. The Seahawks had a higher free-throw percentage in 66.7 percent (16-24) to the Mountaineers' 63.6 percent (14-22).
UNC Wilmington was led in scoring by sophomore Jovana Mandic with 10 points. Senior leading scorer Karneshia Garrett was held to eight points, while sophomore Kelva Atkins chipped in another eight points. Junior guard Jessica Freeman led off the boards with seven rebounds.
"At the end of the night, we had 14 turnovers and that is the least amount of turnovers we have had in awhile, even including last year," Carey explained. "Give them credit. They played hard. Garrett for them is a pretty good sized player and very aggressive. We stayed out on their shooters pretty good and they only shot 3 for 20. They usually shoot pretty well. This is a team that won 20 games and have a lot of people back. Overall, I was happy, but we have a lot of work to do."
The Mountaineers take to the road for the first time this season, at 7 p.m., Monday, Nov. 12, as they face Boston University.
"We have big game Monday against Boston University, which is a very good team," Carey said. "They have won their league last year and have a three-time player of the year back, so it is going to be a tough game on Monday, but that is okay. We need to go and get in that right away."