West Virginia 63, No. 25 UCLA 54
Traveling for the holidays has turned out well for West
Taylor Palmer scored 18 points and the Mountaineers beat No. 25
UCLA 63-54 in Friday’s night’s opening round of the Holiday Inn
Thanksgiving Basketball Classic at Cal State Northridge.
The Mountaineers spent last year’s Thanksgiving weekend in the
U.S. Virgin Islands, where they scored upset-victories over No. 17
Iowa State and No. 21 TCU.
This was their first victory in three games against UCLA.
”It helps because we know we can play anywhere,” Palmer said
of the team’s annual excursions. ”We don’t have to be at home to
win games. As long as we have each other, it doesn’t matter where
While Friday’s victory gave the Mountaineers a sense of
accomplishment, it also served as a reminder of how much work still
needs to be done before they start their Big East schedule. West
Virginia shot 40 percent from the field against UCLA and turned the
ball over 22 times.
The Mountaineers had a few chances to pull away from the Bruins
(2-2) but the shooting percentage and turnovers prevented them from
doing it. A scoring drought that lasted 5:38 helped UCLA whittle a
10-point first-half lead to four points.
UCLA was hampered in the first half by poor shooting as well.
The Bruins shot just 29 percent from the floor in the opening
frame, their worst half of the season. They increased that to 43
percent in the second half but it didn’t make much of a difference.
West Virginia dominated the boards, outrebounding UCLA by a 47-26
Natalie Burton’s put-back of Christal Caldwell miss with 8:50
left in the game gave the Mountaineers their biggest lead (43-30)
but it didn’t last. The Bruins charged back, using a 16-5 run, to
cut their deficit to two points.
West Virginia answered with consecutive baskets by Caldwell and
Asya Bussie to push the lead back to 53-46. A desperation 3-pointer
by Palmer, with the shot clock expiring, gave the Mountaineers a
56-46 lead with 2:04 remaining.
The Bruins were hoping to use Friday’s game to erase the
memories of last week’s 33-point loss to Baylor. Instead it left
UCLA coach Cari Close questioning her team’s toughness.
The Bruins are saddled with several injuries, and added another
when Kacy Swain bumped her head on the floor in the first half.
Swain left the game and will not play in Saturday’s consolation
Close refuses to use the injuries as an excuse.
”(Friday) was all about toughness and being mentally focused,”
she said. ”We have plenty of talent if they do the things
together. West Virginia was the aggressor. They had more focus down
the stretch and we paid the price.”
Rebekah Gardner led the Bruins with 19 points. She has been the
Bruins’ leading scorer in three of their four games.