By David Folse
The Associated Press
BATON ROUGE, La. — West Virginia’s backcourt duo of Christal Caldwell and Bria Holmes left coach Mike Carey confident about the Mountaineers chances of making program history in the NCAA women’s tournament.
Caldwell scored 26 points, Holmes added 20, and second-seeded West Virginia defeated Albany 76-61 in the opening round Sunday, setting up a second-round matchup Tuesday night with host LSU, the No. 7 seed.
Averee Fields added 10 points for West Virginia (30-4).
“We attacked the basket and did what we are supposed to do,” Carey said. “We passed the ball extremely well.”
Megan Craig led the 15th-seeded Great Danes (28-5) with 23 points. But the 6-foot-9 center was hampered by two quick fouls that limiter her playing time in the first half.
“I’m very proud of my team,” Albany head coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson said. “They completed and competed to the end and finished the game as fighters.”
When Craig went to the bench, the Mountaineers went on a 16-2 run to take a 33-11 lead.
“It was more of our defense that was the biggest reason we went on our run like we did,” Holmes said. “It got things going with us offensively and allowed us to score a lot of points quickly when their girl (Craig) went out of the game.”
Indeed, West Virginia’s defense held Albany scoreless for nearly six minutes during the run and the Great Danes never quite recovered.
“I was just itching to get back out there as quick as I could,” Craig said. “But I knew I couldn’t afford to get into any more foul trouble, particularly in the first half. I just knew that I had to do whatever I could once I was able to get back into the game.”
Albany leading scorer and America East Player of the Year Shereesha Richards also got into foul trouble and was limited to only nine points before fouling out with four minutes remaining in the game.
Sara Royals scored 14 points for Albany, which fell behind by as much as 22 for mounting a desperate comeback attempt.
Albany managed to cut the lead to 56-51 with less than seven minutes to go, but West Virginia immediately responded by scoring the next four points to push the lead back to 60-51, securing the victory and its berth in the second round.
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