Women's Basketball, WVU Sports

WVU defense leads the way, forces 41 turnovers in opening win against USC Upstate

MORGANTOWN — If nothing else, West Virginia’s pressure man-to-man defense made a good first impression.

In her first regular season game as the Mountaineers’ head coach, Dawn Plitzuweit saw her players force 41 turnovers on Thursday, as WVU ran past USC Upstate 81-31 inside the Coliseum.

“Our defensive pressure was really getting them frustrated,” said WVU guard Madisen Smith, who opened up her final season with 11 points and a team-high four steals. “We frustrated them and got up the lanes and picked up a lot of steals and scored in transition.”

The 41 turnovers from the Spartans (1-1) was just the sixth time in school history WVU forced at least 40 in a game and it was the most since the Mountaineers forced 42 in a game in 2011.

WVU (1-0) scored 48 points off those turnovers.


“Defense has always meant a lot to me,” said WVU guard JJ Quinerly, who led the team with 19 points. “Getting steals is always one of my favorite things. For us to get 41, that’s great.”

There was more to this game than just defense.

The attendance of 1,484 inside the Coliseum included a gathering of 50, or so, WVU students, a result of Plitzuweit and her coaching staff meeting with the Mountaineer Maniacs club.

“They were incredible,” Plitzuweit said. “We’ve been working with the Maniacs to try and generate some excitement. One of the things they requested was their own section, so they got it. They were really into it. That’s going to be a lot of fun to continue to watch that group grow.”

It didn’t start, or end there. WVU coaches spent time on campus Thursday speaking with students and handing out cookies.

“I had the best cookies,” Plitzuweit said. “I had the chocolate chip cookies with the M&Ms in them. We’ve got to get more of those. No one wants those sugar cookies. If we have to start baking our own, we’ll do it.”

It was a party of sorts, as WVU’s lead continued to grow. During a timeout, some guy was caught on the video board with his shirt halfway off, while he was rubbing his fuzzy belly.

It was the kind of atmosphere that was noticed by WVU players, too.

“I feel like we had a lot of fans here,” Smith said. “It was a good crowd and the energy was high the entire game. It was really good to see that, and I hope it stays that way the entire season.”

As for the game itself, it was dominated by defense. USC Upstate — a small school located in Valley Falls, S.C. — was held to just 11 baskets and it took the Spartans most of three quarters to equal the 19 points WVU scored in the first quarter.

“We were able to turn them over and keep their field-goal percentage down,” Plitzuweit said. “That’s something that’s really a priority for us.”

Kyah Watson, who transferred from South Dakota — Plitzuweit’s former school — finished with a team-high seven rebounds and the Mountaineers added 20 steals.

TWEET @bigjax3211