The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

March 15, 2011

Mountaineer women draw Houston

Earn No. 9 seed; to play in Texas Sunday

MORGANTOWN — Back in the ’70s, Kenny Vance was musically “Looking for an Echo”. Around the same time Diane Keaton was cinematically “Looking for Mr. Goodbar.”

Here in 2011, West Virginia basketball coach Mike Carey is looking for something but it isn’t a movie or a song.

He’s looking for an attitude for his team to take to Waco, Tex., with it when it plays No. 8 Houston in the opening round of the NCAA women’s tournament — a hard, nasty attitude.

Currently ranked No. 22 in the Associated Press poll, Houston also qualified with an at-large bid as it went 26-5 overall this season and 16-0 in Conference USA, falling to Tulane, 70-60, in the league’s semifinals.

The game is Sunday at 5 p.m.

Carey’s Mountaineers, who won their first 16 games but closed the season with a timid four victories in their final 12 games, landed a No. 9 seed, hardly where they would have hoped to have landed … but certainly where they belong.

“We’re not where we want to be and shouldn’t be, the way we’re playing,” Carey said after the seeds were announced.

A year ago, the Mountaineers were a third seed and if Carey had his way he wouldn’t be sitting there with a No. 9 seed.

“I’d rather be higher and not have to play the No. 1 seed in the second round on its home court,” he said, referring to a second-round date with Baylor and its 6-8 junior superstar Brittney Griner. “But it is what it is.”

And that is not good.

“We make no excuses,” Carey said.

“It’s our own fault we have a low seed,” WVU star senior guard Liz Repella said.

It’s a case of like it or lump it.

“I tell the girls this all the time, when you were 16-0 and everyone was telling you how great you were, you have to take that with a grain of salt. Now you lose eight out of 12 and everyone is telling you how bad you are, you have to take that with a grain of salt, too,” Carey said.

The way out of that, Carey believes, can be found in the attitude he’s looking for.

“People used to fear playing us because of our defense,” he said. “Now people are looking forward to playing us. We have to change that. We have to get mean and nasty and get up the lanes and knock people down. We can’t play not to lose. We have to play to win.”

Madina Ali summed it up best.

“Defense is our ticket out,” she said.

It is difficult to understand why this happened. Maybe it was the injury to Madina Ali, a stress fracture in her lower leg, which limited her playing time. She was, with Repella, the most aggressive of the Mountaineers.

Maybe it started earlier when Sarah Miles, the point guard and a great defensive presence, was injured and never really got back. She still says her knee hurts and that she won’t be free of the pain until she has time to rest it.

With the NCAA a one-and-out tournament, she hopes that time doesn’t come soon.

“We have to have that anger mentality that we had last year against people who didn’t think we were good,” she said.

The Mountaineers, it seemed, benefitted from being underrated in the past.

“We have always been underrated, back in the shadows, until last year when we had a breakout year. Now we’re back in the shadows, under the radar. We still know we can play. We’ll use it for motivation,” she said.

Carey gave his team a couple of days off after losing to St. John’s in the Big East Tournament, partly to get their heads straight and partly to understand how his team could beat St. John’s by 20 at home and four days later lose to them.

Now he is pushing them to find an attitude.

“We’re not going to go into these games tentative. We have to do what we do well. If that’s not good enough, it’s not,” he said. “But you know what, if we win a couple of games, they’ll forget the regular season.”

E-mail Bob Hertzel at bhertzel@hotmail.com.

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