The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

February 28, 2014

HERTZEL COLUMN: Pay tribute to Top 10 WVU women

MORGANTOWN — Mike Carey always has had a way of cutting through to the core of matters, and he was at his best Wednesday night after his West Virginia University women’s basketball team annihilated Texas Tech, 69-37, on the Coliseum floor.

 He had just stopped by the IMG radio station for a brief word and was somewhat surprised to be greeted with talk about how slowly the team had started, how it had not shot well and how it had turned the ball over too often.

“Radio acted like we lost,” he said for a second time in his interview session, having opened about how they mentioned listless play at the start of the game. “They brought up all the turnovers.”

Well, it was true that West Virginia did commit 17 turnovers, one more than they had forced in this one-sided affair, but for once those turnovers did not seem to ruffle Carey’s oft-ruffled feathers.

“Any time you can play like we did and still win by 32, that’s pretty good. This team we beat just lost by one point to Oklahoma State and should have won. Oklahoma State won with a shot with 1.1 seconds left.”

This is something Carey is going to have to get used to, considering the high perch his team now occupies on the branches of women’s basketball’s Top 10.

Indeed, his Mountaineers had finally – and it had been a long, slow climb for a team that seemed to be getting no respect all season – reached the elite with a No. 10 ranking from the coaches in the USA Today poll.

The Mountaineers had accomplished so much … and, as Carey was about to point out, so little.

See even 28 games into a season that had already seen them win 25 of those games, what they were gunning for all along was still ahead of them.

Oh, they were going get an NCAA bid for sure and probably a good enough one so that they don’t land on someone else’s home court, as they always have seemed to have done in the past.

But this year is being played for so much more of that. It’s for a large and wonderful senior class that now has the world within its grasp.

“It’s down to a two-game season now,” Carey said.

See, the first goal would be a Big 12 regular-season championship, and that has come down to them vs. No. 5 Baylor, whom they trail by one game, that game being a terribly disappointing 78-62 loss at the Coliseum on Jan. 8.

The showdown is Sunday at 2:30 in Waco.

“Needless to say, we’d like to have that game at home,” Carey admitted. “Well, we had that game at home and they beat us, so now we have to beat them on their home court.”

That is the game of games, so to speak, but Carey was immediately going to work on his team’s psyche following the victory over Texas Tech, trying to ease whatever pressure they may be feeling by Sunday.

“We have nothing to lose,” he noted.

If they win, they are tied for the lead and have pulled off a big-time upset. If they lose, they are second, right where they are, and probably won’t be hurt in the seeding of the tournament.

Plus, as he had mentioned, this is down to a two-game season, and there is another game behind Baylor before the Big 12 Tournament and it’s almost as big a game to Carey as is Baylor.

That would be the Tuesday, March 4, meeting with Kansas, a game that has no bearing on the standings – unless WVU is upset by a team it beat by 10 points on the road early in the season – but it has a bearing on the hearts and souls of West Virginia fans.

It is Senior Day for a group of seniors that includes Asya Bussie, Christal Caldwell, Brooke Hampton, Jess Harlee and Taylor Palmer … a group that has been so much over the years at WVU and carried the program to the heights it now enjoys.

“We’ve got a big game coming up against Baylor, but win or lose that game I hope we get a great crowd for our last game here for these seniors,” Carey said. “These seniors deserve a lot of credit for the success we’ve had the last three or four years. Hopefully we can have a great crowd here to send them out the right way. This is the last opportunity our fans will have to see them playing here.”

This was not huckstering on Carey’s part, trying to sell some tickets for the final home game of the year. It was from the heart for he really does have a warm spot for this class.

It is a class that has won over a lot of women’s basketball fans and succeeded at a time when other sports were struggling and, when you consider that the men’s team doesn’t have any senior players to honor, it might be nice to head out and pay tribute to this Top 10 group of ladies next Tuesday.

Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.

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