Oh, so close, but just not quite good enough.
That was the West Virginia University women’s 74-71 loss to defending champion Baylor in the Big 12 Conference Tournament final Monday night at Oklahoma City.
The second-seeded Mountaineers (29-4), ranked No. 5 in the nation, rallied from an 11-point deficit to battle the Lady Bears (29-4) toe-to-toe down the stretch.
Baylor’s Niya Johnson made four free throws in the final 21.1 seconds to seal the verdict for Baylor, ranked No. 8 nationally.
Johnson’s final pair of free throws came with only 4.1 seconds remaining on the clock.
The Mountaineers had an opportunity to tie.
But Linda Stepney’s 3-point shot bounced off the basket rim at the buzzer.
The tough loss to the perennial power with which they share the conference’s regular-season title snapped the Mountaineers’ 12-game winning streak.
This is the Lady Bears’ sixth Big 12 tourney championship since 2005, so it’s obviously become a habit for that school. WVU’s only tourney title in women’s basketball history came in the Atlantic 10 Conference in 1989.
Bria Holmes led West Virginia in scoring with a game-high 24 points — 19 of those in the first half when her team trailed by 38-32.
Stepney and Averee Fields tallied 10 points each in support.
Baylor had two scorers with 19 points apiece.
With 29 victories, WVU has tied the school record going into the NCAA women’s tournament yet to be formed. The previous high number of wins was posed in 2009-10, again under coach Mike Carey’s leadership.
That team, then a member of the Big East, finished with a 29-6 record and second-place finish in the league.
Carey, the Big 12 Coach of the Year, will tell you, however, that the Big 12 is “the strongest conference I ever coached in.”
No one has ever done a better job for WVU in his role.
Oh, so close, but just not quite good enough.
- Mickey Furfari
FURFARI COLUMN: Bobby Bowden won the bad-and-good battle with rival Lou Holtz
The recent announcement that West Virginia University is resuming a football relationship with North Carolina State triggered a most memorable bad-news, good-news battle.
It was between two legendary coaches, WVU’s Bobby Bowden and N.C. State’s Lou Holtz back there in the 1970s.
FURFARI COLUMN: Wyant talks about ‘Pappy’ Lewis and other items of interest
I saved some other interesting observations from the recent interview with Fred Wyant which you may find worth reading.
He believes a college football coach ought to recruit a quarterback he wants, give him some help, then turn virtually everything over to him and let him go.
FURFARI COLUMN: Five major sports topics of interest to area fans
Tom Hart, a widely known retired Morgantown High School administrator and coach, continues to excel as one of the nation’s top bowlers.
However, he told me he faces knee-replacement surgery. So he’s going to find it necessary to give up bowling during a period of rehab. Hart has competed in an amazing total of 45 U.S. Bowling Congress tournaments during his outstanding career.
FURFARI COLUMN: Ex-Mountaineer track star dies; WVU athlete arrests may be concern
I’ve learned belatedly that James Gordon “Jim” Dial, an outstanding men’s track and field sprinter at West Virginia University during the late 1940s, has died.
He was a native of Huntington who earned All-State first team status. The Huntington High star led all scorers in the state Track Championship meets in both 1946 and ’47.
FURFARI COLUMN: Jedd Gyorko running and taking batting practice now
A report on the internet at this week’s start indicated that Morgantown’s Jedd Gyorko might be ready finally to rejoin the San Diego Padre’s starting lineup.
He has been on the Major League’s disabled list since June 3. Problems with his feet was given as the reason Gyorko was unable to keep playing.
FURFARI COLUMN: WVU hopes to boost season-ticket sales
West Virginia University’s season-ticket sales for football are the lowest in nine years just two months before this season’s first home game.
That will be on Saturday, Sept. 6, against Towson State. The Big 12 portion of the schedule follows.
FURFARI COLUMN: San Diego Padres’ Gyorko remains on disabled list
Stringing together some odds and ends that may interest you:
• Jedd Gyorko still is not active with the San Diego Padres. The former West Virginia University standout has been on the baseball’s disabled list for just over a month and hopes to return soon.
FURFARI COLUMN: It had to feel like ‘Ol’ Home Week’ for the Tricketts
It might have felt like a bit of “Ol’ Home Week’ to West Virginia University starting quarterback Clint Trickett.
His parents, Rick and Tara Trickett, were in the Morgantown area and stopped by to spend some time with Clint. They still live in Tallahassee, Florida.
FURFARI COLUMN: WVU football season-ticket sales approximately 26,000
Stringing together some odds and ends about sports that may be of interest to you:
• West Virginia University season-ticket sales for the 2014 football campaign have reached approximately 26,000. That’s some 2,000 since the count of 24,000 when the renewal deadline was reached.
FURFARI COLUMN: USA Today has WVU 78th in football countdown from No. 128 to No. 1
Like Las Vegas oddsmakers, USA Today’s sports writer Paul Myerberg doesn’t rank West Virginia highly in that newspaper’s early college football predictions in a copyrighted piece.
In one of its thorough pieces, USA Today analyzed West Virginia in its No. 78 ranking among 128 college teams. That’s what is called a countdown from No. 128 to No. 1.
- More Mickey Furfari Headlines
- FURFARI COLUMN: Bobby Bowden won the bad-and-good battle with rival Lou Holtz