Mountaineers Advance with 76-61 Win Over Albany - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

Mountaineers Advance with 76-61 Win Over Albany

Baton Rouge, La. -

It wasn't pretty, but West Virginia is still dancing.

Christal Caldwell and Bria Holmes sparked the Mountaineers in the first half and the No. 2 seed held on to take down No. 15 Albany 76-61 in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.

The win was West Virginia's 30th of the season, which is a program-best total, but this group has its sights set on many more.

"I always tell the players in all tournament settings that we normally don't play well the first game," said head coach Mike Carey after the game. "There's no doubt we'll play better the next game and play harder for 40 minutes."

The Mountaineers took care of the ball in the first half, only committing two turnovers while forcing 11 on the other end. With eight steals, WVU turned carelessness into points. 

Up 10, Holmes knocked away a Great Danes pass to Linda Stepney who started the Mountaineers in transition and ultimately it was Asya Bussie who took advantage with a layup to make it 23-11. 

A 20-2 run put WVU up as many as 22 in the first half before Albany broke a eight-minute scoreless drought and could close the gap to head into the locker room trailing 42-25. 

"I felt like it was more of our defense and us just running out and everybody looking for each other, just attacking the basket and just scoring," said Holmes.

Both of the centers got in first half foul trouble. Craig picked up her second personal with 12:44 left and Bussie was called for her second at the 8:35 mark. Redshirt freshman center Lanay Montgomery checked in for Bussie and immediately grabbed an offensive rebound and sent it back in for a layup. She played 10 minutes for the Mountaineers as Bussie wound up with four fouls.

As well as Carey's crew took care of the ball in the first half, the second half was a comedy of errors out of the gate. After Caldwell made a basket on the first possession, West Virginia threw the ball away five times before its next points. 

The turnovers resulted in a 12-2 run, with the Great Danes getting the deficit down to single digits just under seven minutes into the half. West Virginia had 13 turnovers in the second half.

Craig began to take over with most of her damage coming from the free throw line as the Mountaineers had no answer for her size in the paint. She got behind the WVU defense, resulting in point blank looks on her way to a team-best 23 points.

"I think we did a pretty good job having ball pressure and even getting weak side help, but [Craig] had height over us, so sometimes the passes just got there whether we were in position or not," said Averee Fields, who finished with 10 points and seven rebounds.

Craig's jumper with seven minutes left in the half cut the Mountaineers' lead to five, but perhaps it also woke up the No. 2 seed. The purple-clad fans made their presence known and WVU did its best to quiet them.

Caldwell scored nine of the next 16 points for West Virginia and her teammates were able to connect from the line to seal the game. The senior guard led the team from start to finish, throwing in a game-high 26 points on 10-of-16 shooting and Holmes added 20, despite making only one of her 12 3-pointers.

"I just tried not to think about it as much," said Caldwell. "If I hit the shot, okay, but if I don't, then help my team in other ways. But it always feels good to make shots and just to be able to help your team."

The Mountaineers recognize that a similar performance against No. 7 seed LSU will not cut it as the Lady Tigers will be playing on their own home court after a 98-78 win over No. 10 Georgia Tech. 

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