MORGANTOWN, W. Va. — The hay is in the barn.
West Virginia coach Dawn Plitzuweit repeated those words to herself in the hour before her first-ever game as the Mountaineer head coach. That mantra worked, as WVU took an 81-31 victory over USC Upstate to start the next chapter of Mountaineer women’s hoops.
“We have a lot of confidence in our ability to get stops and I thought our players played that way tonight. At the same time, I thought we got a lot of good shots in the first half.”
Plitzuweit had a lot to like about her team’s performance. The Mountaineers’ swarming defense smothered USC Upstate, forcing 41 turnovers, tying the third-best tally in program history.
“I think we have three young ladies who can get up there and pressure the ball at a very, very high level, and that allows us to get back and slow teams down a little bit and try to slow down their transition break. I think Upstate is a team that in their first opportunity to play…they got a lot in transition, so with Madisen Smith, JJ Quinerly and even Imaria Russell came in and did a really good job of applying some pressure.”
The guard duo of Quinerly and Smith led the way on both ends for WVU. Quinerly scored a game-high 19 points and Smith added 11, while both combined for seven steals in the win.
The Mountaineers also flashed their depth as all 13 players saw time on the court. Every Mountaineer put a positive stat in the box score, and all but one mustered points in the scoring effort.
That is an encouraging sign for Plitzuweit, as her team will need as many legs as possible this season if it is to keep up that defensive pressure through the winter.
“Certainly I thought that we had a number of ladies that came off the bench and gave us some really, really good minutes today,” she said.
WVU’s win also came from a strong showing on the offensive end. The Mountaineers shot 42.9 percent from the floor and generally took care of the ball — while the team gave up 12 turnovers, only four of those came from the starting five.
Pairing an aggressive offense with her swarming defense is one of Plitzuweit’s goals for this season.
“We got open threes early and we hunted them. That’s really good, we wanted that. We got the ball around the rim a lot early in the game.”
It took some time for the Mountaineers to finish their shots close around the rim. WVU had 15 layups in the first half but only made five.
That number changed after halftime as they were able to make 17 of their 25 second-half layups. WVU finished with 44 points in the paint.
Plitzuweit and the Mountaineers get a week off before their next regular season clash, which comes on Nov. 17 against Winthrop.