WVU Needs Better Showing to Beat No. 7 LSU - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

WVU Needs Better Showing to Beat No. 7 LSU

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Baton Rouge, La. -

After West Virginia had just knocked off No. 6 Baylor in Waco, Mike Carey said that for whatever reason, his players seemed to enjoy playing in close games.

There was something about a tight battle down the stretch that the Mountaineers took comfort in, allowing them to stay calm despite taking a few punches from the opposition. So when Albany cut a 22-point lead down to just five with seven minutes left in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, it was just what WVU wanted, right?

"Enjoying close games and this game are completely different," Christal Caldwell said with a laugh. "We just stuck it out and we came together in huddles and said, ‘Listen, we can't let this one get away,' and they're not going to give up, which they didn't."

Caldwell was a big part of the reason why the No. 2 Mountaineers pushed the lead back out to a 76-61 final as she scored nine of the final 20 points for West Virginia.

The post game press conference came with a sense of relief rather than accomplishment. After all, several of the players said on Saturday that they not only wanted to beat teams in this tournament, but to win by a large margin in order to make a statement.

In truth, WVU has played – and won – a number of games like this one all throughout the season on its way to a program-best 30 wins. Sluggish first halves have turned to dominant seconds and a big lead early sometimes had to provide enough cushion to withstand late runs.

"We played a lot of ugly games and still were able to win. We really don't get caught up in pretty, ugly – we'd rather win ugly than lose pretty," said Carey. "I think our team understands that. When we're not playing well, we still have to play defense, we still have to rebound and if we're not scoring, we can't let them score. Those things are big for us when we're not playing well."

West Virginia had a difficult match-up with Albany center Megan Craig, who towered over the Mountaineer bigs on her way to 23 points and six rebounds. But Craig got into foul trouble early and when she sat, WVU went to work.

Crisp passing and quality looks at the basket helped push what was a 13-9 lead to 33-11 in a nearly six-minute scoreless drought for the Great Danes. In the second half, when Albany closed the lead to five, Carey says he watched his team abandon what had been working for a different brand of basketball.

"We just started passing back and forth instead of attacking it," said Carey. "We got the lead and we normally don't do that when we get a lead. We try to build on a lead, but we started getting a little lazy with our passes instead of attacking, throwing over top and getting two-on-ones and that type of stuff."

Carey and the Mountaineers talked about respecting their opponent coming into this one and that despite Albany getting a 15 seed from the selection committee, this was the America East Conference champion and a worthy adversary. Perhaps the way Sunday's game played out will wake his team up and hammer home the idea that there are no easy match-ups in the Big Dance.

That will especially be the case on Tuesday when West Virginia faces No. 7 LSU, which nearly hit the century mark in a 98-78 win over No. 10 Georgia Tech.

"Nothing against Albany, but we play like that [Tuesday], LSU will beat us," said Carey. "Let's just face it. We're going to have to play for 40 minutes. It's going to have to be a 40-minute game and play hard for 40 minutes and concentrate and attack for 40 minutes and play our defense for 40 minutes. It's going to be a tough game. We knew it was going to be."

This is the game everyone circled when the bracket was announced. LSU is playing in its own gym at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center and the Mountaineers get to be the road team. The Lady Tigers certainly used the help of a packed, loud home arena in the win over the Yellow Jackets.

"We'll be fine. I'm not worried about it," said Carey. "Did we play well? No, but Albany probably had a lot to do with that. Do we have to play better against LSU? Absolutely." 

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