Junior guard Christal Caldwell used a career-best five 3-pointers to guide the West Virginia University women's basketball team to a 67-61 Big 12 road win over No. 19/19 Oklahoma State, Tuesday.
The Mountaineers (12-8, 4-5 Big 12) handed the Cowgirls (15-4, 4-4 Big 12) their fifth loss in 77 games at home. WVU matched a season-high nine team threes and 16 team steals in the win.
Although WVU led by as many as 13 in the opening minutes of the second half, the game came down to the wire, as a Toni Young layup made it a two-point game, 63-61, with 1:55 to play. Each team was off the mark on their respective following possessions, when Caldwell went up against three defenders and hit a jumper with a minute remaining. Linda Stepney converted 2-of-4 final free throws to seal the win.
"First of all that's a big win for us. We've had about four of these in the Big 12, having the lead at halftime and then losing the lead with under four minutes. We almost did it, but give our girls a lot of credit," coach Mike Carey said. "We hung in there. I thought Oklahoma State has a great team. I really felt watching tape, they're the last team we have not played in the Big 12, and I thought they have the second-most talent and play well, next to Baylor. To get this win on the road is big for us."
The Mountaineers pulled away nine points with a 16-7 lead and 14:01 in the opening half, led by Caldwell with nine points on three treys and five points from Ayana Dunning. OSU chipped away at the lead, finally taking it at the 4:36 mark, 29-28. The Mountaineers responded with a 9-0 run into halftime, forcing five turnovers on the Cowgirls, and taking a 37-29 lead at the break.
Caldwell led the team for the ninth time this season with 21 points, her 14th double-figure scoring game. Averee Fields gave a career-best 19 points, including 6-of-6 from the free throw line.
"Christal has been our most consistent player all year and plays extremely hard," Carey said. "The big bucket down the stretch was a big shot for us. She played hard and I thought Averee Fields played hard too."
WVU shot a season-best 45 percent (9-20) from beyond the arc, limiting Oklahoma State to 14.3 percent (1-7). Oklahoma State entered the game averaging six threes per contest and was limited to only one, the fewest by any Big 12 team WVU has faced this season. Tiffany Bias entered the game as the second-leading player in the Big 12 in assists and was limited to only four and turned the ball over 11 times.
"We put a lot of pressure on Bias. She had a lot of pressure the whole game. She is one of the best point guards in the country, so we knew we had to make her do something that she's not comfortable doing," Carey explained.
WVU finished the game shooting 38.5 percent (20-52) from the field, while OSU was 42.2 percent (19-45) from the field. WVU recorded its second-highest free-throw percentage in Big 12 play this season, converting 75 percent (18-24) from the line. OSU converted 22-of-28 from the line for 78.6 percent in the game. The win was the first win for WVU over a ranked opponent this season.
Bias and Young led Oklahoma State in scoring with 15 points each. WVU out-rebounded OSU 35-29 behind Caldwell's seven rebounds. Young led the Cowgirls on the glass with nine boards.
WVU returns home for a 1 p.m. contest with Oklahoma on Sunday. The Feb. 3 contest with Oklahoma is West Virginia's Play 4 Kay game. The women's basketball team will wear pink uniforms and fans are encouraged to "Pack the House" in pink to support breast cancer awareness. Two free tickets to the game will be inserted into the Saturday, Feb. 2, edition of the Dominion Post Morgantown area newspaper. The game will also be a part of Alumni Weekend as former WVU women's players will be in attendance and honored at the game.