The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

February 19, 2014

WVU women host Oklahoma for ‘biggest game of the year’

MORGANTOWN — Coaches normally, in the course of a long regular season such as there is in college basketball, try not to put too much emphasis on any one game.

Not Mike Carey.

He is treating his No. 13 West Virginia University women’s basketball team’s rematch with No. 12 Oklahoma State at 7 tonight at the Coliseum as “the biggest game of the year.”

  On the surface, of course, it’s obviously a huge game for seeding come the NCAA Tournament.

 “I told the girls yesterday, this is a big game,” Carey said. “This is a big game for seeding. They are going to come in here and play extremely hard. I think both teams know they are probably in the NCAA, but this is about seeding right now, and they are projected to get a higher seed than we do right now.

“They are going to come in here looking to win, and we have to have this game. This is the biggest game of the year.”

But this game goes deeper than the NCAA seedings, for WVU finds itself in a position it rarely has ever found itself in.

The Mountaineers have a chance to win the Big 12 regular-season championship, sitting in second place, a game behind Baylor.

“That’s great, but I haven’t really thought about it much,” Carey admitted. “To me, it’s always been about trying to make the NCAA and get a high seed and have an opportunity to advance in the tournament. Of course, along the way, if you have an opportunity to win your conference championship, that’s great.

“We’re in a good position right now, so we’ll see what happens.”

It is little wonder Carey never gave much thought to the conference championship over the years. In the Big East he was in there with Connecticut (and Notre Dame), and when he moved to the Big 12 he ran into Baylor.

They had no real chance to be conference champion, which may have taken some zing out of the regular season.

“I don’t think that hurt us, though,” Carey said. “My job is to make the NCAA Tournament and win as many games as I can. Along the way, if there’s an opportunity to win the conference championship or the conference tournament, that’s great because you have to win some of those games to get to the NCAA.

“It’s exciting at this time of the year to be in contention for the conference championship, but that’s not our main goal right now.”

As it stands, Baylor leads at 12-1 and WVU is second at 11-2, and WVU’s next two games after Oklahoma State are at Kansas State and at home against Texas Tech, the two bottom teams in the league.

Then they play what figures to really be the game of the year, going to Baylor on March 2 before finishing out the regular season at home against Kansas, which is third from the bottom in the Big 12.

To have any chance they have to get through this game against Oklahoma State, a team they edged on the road, 71-67, even though they were outhustled and out rebounded.

“We didn’t play well, but we still ended up with a win under our belt,” said center Asya Bussie, who had a difficult game. “I gave up a lot of easy baskets and got in foul trouble.”

But as has happened so often this year, WVU overcame all of its problems and found a way to pull out a victory.

This time Bussie is planning on playing better, and sophomore Bria Holmes has emerged as the team’s top scoring force while also doing a big job rebounding.

WVU’s Brooke Hampton remains sidelined with a knee injury.

“We’re not going to put a time table on it or push her. We’ll see,” Carey said. “I was told in the beginning anywhere from two to four weeks, so we’ll see what happens. When she’s getting better and starts working out, we’ll evaluate it then. She’s not even close now.”

Meanwhile, sophomore Darius Faulk, who had been redshirted, is serving as the backup and been doing a solid job.

Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.

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