By Michael Kinney
NORMAN, Okla. — The new year has not been kind to the West Virginia women’s basketball team.
Ever since the Mountaineers rolled into 2018, they have struggled to regain the form that saw them win their first 16 games of the season.
WVU was looking to find that rhythm when it traveled to Oklahoma on Feb. 3 to take on a Sooners squad that has been inconsistent.
However, WVU’s troubles only grew as the Mountaineers were ripped apart, 76-57, by OU, at Lloyd Noble Center.
“They played five times harder than we did,” WVU head coach Mike Carey said. “We deserve what we got. I told them that after the game. Good thing we get to play Texas on Monday. I am so glad we’re playing Texas on Monday. If they play like that again, they will get embarrassed again.”
Coming off an 11-point loss to Baylor on Jan. 28, the Mountaineers (17-6, 5-6) were looking to get back on a win streak. However, they came out of the gate looking sluggish offensively and tentative on the defensive end.
The Sooners (12-11, 6-5) knocked down four of six from 3-point range in the first quarter to take a 16-11 lead.
WVU slowly crept up on Oklahoma and tied the game at 22-22 when Katrina Pardee drained a 3-pointer with 2:40 left in the second quarter.
However, the Mountaineers turned the ball over on three straight possessions and they trailed, 31-26, at the half.
WVU’s offense sputtered around most of the first half. The Mountaineers shot 34 percent from the field and attempted only two free throws. The 12 first half turnovers didn’t help their cause either.
Kristina King was the one solid player for WVU in the first half. Going up against Oklahoma’s Vionise Pierra-Louis and Maddie Manning, she was able to score in the paint and hold her own on the boards.
But as a team, WVU was unable to do anything defensively to slow down the Sooners. Oklahoma was able to get any shot it wanted, while also taking advantage of fast-break opportunities.
Midway through the fourth quarter, the Mountaineers found themselves down by 18. They were unable to make a serious run the rest of the game.
Oklahoma’s Ana Llanusa led all scorers with 27 points on 9 of 14 shooting. She also connected on 6 of 10 from 3-point range to go along with six rebounds in 40 minutes of work. Llanusa’s 27 points are the fifth-most points by an OU freshman in a Big 12 game in school history (tied for the 10th most by an OU freshman in a single game). She joined Courtney Paris and Aaryn Ellenberg as the only Sooner freshman to score 27 points or more in a Big 12 game.
“Give their freshman (Llanusa) a lot of credit,” Carey said. “She is going to be a great player in this league.”
Pardee paced WVU with 13 points on 3 of 9 shooting. King added 12 points, but scored only four in the second half.
Teana Muldrow, who leads WVU in scoring (20.5) and rebounding (9.2) on the season, was held to five points on one of eight shooting. She grabbed 11 rebounds, but was ineffective offensively.
Oklahoma “was sagging,” Carey said. “I don’t think Teana did a good job. She was trying to force some things. We didn’t execute. I called a couple of timeouts and drew up some plays. We go out there and don’t even run the play. Focus is not there right now.”
The loss was WVU’s fourth in its last six outings. The 19-point defeat is the second biggest of the season, after a 21-point loss to Texas, on Dec. 31.
However, Carey seemed to be more exasperated with how his team played than with the final outcome.
“We’re not deep,” Carey said. “We got in a little bit of foul trouble. We had a couple of our starters not playing hard. What do you do? I have to put up with it right now. This year I have to put up with it. I told them to enjoy this year. I won’t be in this situation ever again.”
Michael Kinney is a freelance content writer with Eyeamtruth.com