MORGANTOWN — Different eyes see many different angles and many minds can bring about several explanations.
In truth, there was no one absolute thing that kept the 20th-ranked WVU women’s basketball team from pulling off an upset over No. 3 Baylor on Jan. 28, in front of a season-high 5,073 fans inside the WVU Coliseum.
As it was, the Bears (19-1, 9-0 Big 12) kept pace in the first half and then wore down the Mountaineers (17-5, 5-5) in the fourth quarter for an 83-72 victory.
The hows and whys of the outcome depended on the storyteller.
“I thought we really executed our game plan, especially in the first half,” WVU head coach Mike Carey said. “We got in a little foul trouble. We got a little tired.
“They took the lead and then we missed three shots right at the rim and then missed a wide open three and they just kept scoring at the other end. That was the difference.”
WVU’s offense did suffer in the second half. After shooting nearly 55 percent in the first half (18 of 33), the Mountaineers were held to just eight baskets in the second half and only two in the fourth quarter.”
“I said at halftime, ‘Good grief, if they play like that, I don’t know how they have four losses.’ We finally in the second half had to start switching [screens] at all positions just to be able to defend them. I thought that worked for us in the second half.”
Mulkey said Baylor’s ability to switch on every screen and still defend was the difference in keeping WVU scoreless over the final 4:29 of the game.
There were other views, too, including that of WVU guard Naomi Davenport, who scored on a spin move in the paint with 4:29 left to cut Baylor’s lead to 75-72.
“The frustration came from people not stepping up,” said Davenport, who finished with 27 points and five rebounds, but was saddled to the bench with foul trouble in crucial parts of the third and fourth quarters. “I’m not trying to put pressure on people, but you have to step up.”
Davenport mentioned guard Ashley Jones, but WVU guard Katrina Pardee and forward Kristina King also struggled to simply get off shots in the second half.
And then there was the play of WVU forward Teana Muldrow, who scored 21 points, but had the added duty of guarding Baylor’s star 6-foot-7 center Kalani Brown on defense.
Muldrow said she got a taste of guarding Brown some last season, but did it for an entire 40 minutes Sunday.
Brown did not disappoint, using her size advantage to score 18 points and add 12 rebounds, but Muldrow said constantly working to defend against her didn’t hurt her offense.
“Guarding the post was hard, but it didn’t make me fatigued on the offensive end,” Muldrow said. “It was a more of a mind-over-matter thing. Even if you are tired, you know you just have to suck it up and play.”
For three quarters, that’s what the Mountaineers did.
Even with Baylor dominating the boards — Brown and teammate Lauren Cox combined for 26 rebounds, which was one more than WVU had — and hardly missing a shot after the first quarter, WVU nearly pulled off the upset.
Muldrow tied the game at 70 with two free throws with 6:39 remaining, but then Kristy Wallace (25 points) answered with a 3-pointer in the corner and WVU ran out of answers and shots stopped falling.
Muldrow missed on a 3-pointer and Davenport came up short ona drive to the basket. Pardee also missed a 3-pointer that could have brought the Mountaineers to within four points with just under three minutes to play.
“You’ve got to score those,” Carey said. “They just started building on us after that. You’ve got to score with them and we didn’t score with them at that time. I thought our girls played hard I told them after that we should have won that game.”