Mountain Momma Monday: January 7

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Jan 4, 2012; Hartford, CT, USA; West Virginia Mountaineers guard Taylor Palmer (2) reacts after a play in the first half against the Connecticut Huskies at the XL Center. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Quite a tough week for the basketball team. The Mountaineers opened their inaugural Big XII conference slate with two agonizingly close losses.

Mike Carey’s girls went out to Norman, OK to kickoff their Big XII campaign with a momentum building win. What they came back with was a heartbreaking loss. A disappointing result given that the Mountaineers had a 9 point lead early in the second half of the game.

Taylor Palmer fueled the Mountaineers upset bid over the #16 Sooners with 24 points in the first half. Oklahoma found a way to lock her down in the second half, keeping Palmer to only 6 points in the second half. Even with Palmer’s struggles in the second half, there were two glaring deficits in the Mountaineers game: rebounding and personal fouls.

The Mountaineers got owned on the glass by a 44-31 margin. Ayana Dunning, WVU’s woman on the glass, was only able to bring down 5 boards. It is not as if the Mountaineers weren’t playing physically, they played just a hair too physical in fact. WVU got into serious foul trouble late, having three starters foul out and a total of 32 team fouls.

In contrast, Oklahoma only took 15 fouls. That led to a massive disparity in free throw shooting, with the Sooners taking 26 more attempts than the Mountaineers. You cannot allow your opponent that many more opportunities at the charity stripe than you and expect to win. WVU lost a tight 68-71 decision.

Three days after dropping a close game to the Sooners, the Mountaineers returned to Morgantown to face the Kansas Jayhawks in their Big XII home opener.

West Virginia held leads of 13 and 6 points at varying points throughout the game, but the #21 Jayhawks battled back in each instance to tie the game. Taylor Palmer once again led the Mountaineers in scoring with 24 points.

And once again, unfortunately, the Mountaineers played far to physical on the defensive side of the court, committing 27 fouls to Kansas’ 16. Had the Mountaineers not put the Jayhawks on the line 20 more times than they were there (34-14 margin), then WVU would not have been in such a close affair. Kansas used their free throw margin to hold off WVU, 59-60.

This coming week, the Mountaineers will host Texas on Wednesday January 9 at 7 PM and then travel to play at Kansas State on Saturday January 12 with a 4 PM tipoff.