MORGANTOWN — The words and number are clearly visible on the wall of the WVU women’s basketball team’s practice facility: “Physical for 40.”
That phrase serves as the foundation upon which Mike Carey constructed his program after arriving in Morgantown in the spring of 2001.
Yet that physicality was lacking for the No. 17 Mountaineers (15-3, 3-3 Big 12) when they dropped three of their last five Big 12 Conference games.
Carey craves more aggressive, physical play, but he also recognizes his team’s lack of depth can be a detriment to playing that way.
“You want to be physical, but yet you don’t want to be physical and foul,” said Carey, whose Mountaineers visit No. 24 Oklahoma State (12-4, 3-2), at 8 p.m. Jan. 17, in Stillwater.
“That’s a hard place to be. Teams right now are getting physical with us, not only in the post position but at the guard position. We have to go back at them a little bit more.”
WVU guard Katrina Pardee is heeding Carey’s call to get physical.
“I think the past two games, teams have been physical with me and they know that being physical could alter my game,” Pardee said. “Coach Carey has been adamant about not letting that affect me in the next couple of games.”
Pardee’s offensive struggles persisted through five games. She’s shooting 18 percent (9 of 50) from the floor and 18.7 percent (6 of 32) from 3-point range.
“Honestly, I think it’s all mental,” she said. “In the game, I’m thinking about it too much. I know on off days I’m in the gym every day, shooting shots and working on my ballhandling. I know my skills are there. I just have to have the confidence to relax in the game and let it come to me.”
For WVU guard Naomi Davenport, Saturday’s game, against TCU, came and went too fast.
She got tied up with a TCU player on the baseline under TCU’s basket with 8:41 to play and was hit with her fourth foul and a technical foul, which counted as her fifth, meaning she was out of the game.
It was a devastating setback for the Mountaineers, who never recovered on their way to a 76-74 overtime defeat.
“I really think I didn’t do too much, but obviously it was enough to get that fifth foul,” said Davenport, who scored 17 points in 28 minutes.
“It’s something to learn from. Next time, I’ll have to walk away or not even put myself in that position.”
Carey expects the Cowgirls to get after WVU tonight. Oklahoma State is led by forwards Kaylee Jensen and Mandy Coleman, who combined for 34 points in an 80-64 road loss against Kansas State, on Saturday.
“They are very physical,” Carey said. “They have two post players we’ve played against the last two years who are very physical. They have a sixth-year senior who is a graduate student who is one of their leading scorers. They have a nice freshman point guard. They have a nice team.”
Davenport doesn’t doubt that assessment.
“Their two post players are very physical for 40 minutes,” she said. “It’s going to be a battle for our (centers) but also our weakside (defense) to help out our posts.
“These last few days, we have heard a lot of ‘physical for 40.’ ”
Oklahoma State will come hard after WVU after the disappointment at Kansas State. Carey is convinced of that.
“Every game is important right now,” said Carey, whose team stays on the road, playing against Iowa State, on Saturday night.
“We just have to go out and find a way to win. You definitely don’t want to come back 0-2. It would be nice to go 2-0, but you at least have to get a split on this road trip and come back and try to get some wins.”