MORGANTOWN — Rest easy, West Virginia.
Mike Carey will be back to coach your West Virginia women’s basketball team next year, although after what Connecticut’s magnificent ladies did to him and his Mountaineers on Tuesday night in the finals of the Big East Conference championship game might make you wonder why.
A night earlier, after beating Rutgers to advance to the final game, Carey was asked if he beat Connecticut in the finals might he not demand to be named Coach of the Year alone instead of having to share it with UConn’s Geno Auriemma, as was voted.
“I win that game, I'm retiring, I think, myself after that game,” he said.
Fear not. Final score: Connecticut 60, West Virginia 32.
Carey will keep coaching, keep trying to beat Connecticut. He might be 80 by then.
The Mountaineers have proven all season that they are a fine women’s basketball team, winning 28 games to set a school record.
They just aren’t a match for Connecticut, who throws a 28-victory season back as if it were a minnow when they are fishing for whales.
After watching the Connecticut men play on the same day in New York in Madison Square, getting run over, around and through by South Florida, it’s doubtful they can play with the ladies, who now have a record 72 consecutive victories.
Think about that for a moment, 72 wins in a row. No opponent had come within 10 points of them. They had won by an average of 25 points a game … against ranked teams.
When they last lost George Bush was President.
It’s been that long.
The Mountaineers thought they were ready to push UConn. They came out with a plan and, in a way, they made it work.
Maya Moore and Tina Charles, Connecticut’s two starts, weren’t going to beat them.
And in the first half they saw that they didn’t, holding those two to 3 for 17 shooting.
Only it doesn’t matter, not at all.
At halftime the Mountaineers were trailing 30-20, 10 points, being crushed 27-13 on the boards.
And if they were doing a job on Connecticut’s two stars, what do you call when UConn did to Sarah Miles one night after she willed WVU past Rutgers in the semifinals with 18 points.
She, at halftime, was 1 for 9 shooting and had no assists — which wasn’t surprising since WVU had only one in the entire half — and four turnovers.
By halftime, all the pre-game talk had been proven to be just that — talk.
“My thoughts on playing UConn are just going into this game like any other game, playing against UConn like any other team. We're not going to look at them like they're UConn. Yeah, they're undefeated, but it's just another game,” Sarah Miles had said.
Right, and LeBron James is just another basketball player.
Carey had his team primed in the second half, coming out and making a run at Connecticut, something few teams have done during the streak. The lead was cut to five points at 33-28 and it looked like WVU had something working.
Enter Moore and Charles.
All of a sudden they came to life, Moore hitting four points and Charles four and the route was on.
A five point lead became and 12-point lead and became a 21-point lead, Connecticut riding Kalana Greene’s near perfection into full control as the countdown to a championship began.
While WVU handled Moore and Charles so well, them hitting nine of 31 shots, Greene just took control of the moment.
She did everything as she won the tournament’s most valuable player award, scoring 15 points with seven of eight shooting and pulling down 12 rebounds.
The second half, which started with such promise as they cut the lead to five points, ended with WVU scoring only 12 points and going more than 10 minutes without scoring.
Liz Repella, who scored 10 points, and Miles, nightmarish night ended with 1 for 15 shooting and five points, were named to the All-Tournament team.