The Times West Virginian

Sports

March 8, 2013

FURFARI COLUMN-WVU women faring better than men

MORGANTOWN — The West Virginia University women’s basketball team leaves Friday for Dallas, Texas, hoping to make a strong showing in the Big 12 Conference Tournament.

The Mountaineers (17-12, 9-9 Big 12) are sixth-seeded and will play third-seeded Oklahoma at 9:30 p.m. Saturday at the American Airlines Center.

West Virginia will be trying to bounce back from Tuesday night’s 58-45 loss in its regular-season finale at Texas in Austin, Texas.

The Mountaineers’ 45 points were the team’s lowest total of the year.

WVU split with Oklahoma (21-9, 11-7) during the regular season. The Sooners, then ranked 17th nationally, won 71-68 at home, but lost by 82-63 in the rematch here.

Coach Mike Carey has been pleased with his players’ performances all season, with few exceptions. He keeps saying they play hard in every game.

The women’s team not only has been successful and, hopefully, will play in the National Invitational Tournament if not the NCAA tourney. But the WVU men’s squad (13-17, 6-11 Big 12) seems destined to finish with a losing record for the first time since the 2002-03 campaign.

It also seems significant that, in the history of West Virginia’s female basketball program, one of its teams actually outdrew the men in one game’s home attendance this season.

A record-setting crowd of 13,447, obviously attracted by No. 1-ranked Baylor, turned out there for the WVU women’s 80-49 loss last Saturday night at the Coliseum.

Coach Bob Huggins men’s top crowd for a home game this season, with one game left, was 12,402 for nationally ranked Kansas on Jan. 28. The Jayhawks won that night by 61-56.

Despite that 31-point drubbing by the Bears, the WVU women’s program should receive long-term benefit from the near-capacity turnout.

It was a long-overdue “shot in the arm” for women’s basketball.

The women also had an edge over the men with two scorers averaging double digits for the season. The men have none going into Saturday’s regular-season finale against Iowa State at 1:30 p.m. in the Coliseum.

West Virginia’s 83-70 loss at Oklahoma stretched its losing streak to five. But it was encouraging that the Mountaineers shot better than 50 percent from the field (27 of 51), including 10 of 21 from 3-point range.

The 91 points given up by WVU to nationally ranked – and Big 12 leader – Kansas were the most this year. It was the largest yield by the Mountaineers since a 98-95 loss at old rival Pitt on Feb. 12, 2010.

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