MORGANTOWN — On Friday, Baylor’s women’s basketball team stunned No. 1 Connecticut and ended their 98-game home winning streak with a convincing 74-58 victory — the repercussions of the Bears victory were felt all the way to Morgantown.
It was not only a statement game for Bayor, but also for the entire Big 12. That is really important for Mike Carey’s West Virginia team, who is carving out its own niche in the Big 12 and may well be the only thing standing between the Bears and a conference title.
But first, of course, this young and growing Mountaineer has to take care of its own business and that means finding a way to defeat a tough Texas team as it returns to the Coliseum at 1 p.m. for its Big 12 home opener.
This is something less than a statement game for WVU — which stands at 12-1 and holds a No. 20/19 ranking, — but if they are to get to the point where they are playing statement games they need to be a 7-5 Texas team.
“It’s early,” Coach Mike Carey admitted when asked if this meeting could qualify as a statement game for a team that has failed to reach the NCAA’s the past two years. “Even if we win it, it’s not like ‘Oh, boy, we’re here.’ If we lose it we’re not out of anything. It’s an important game. It’s at home. We need to take care of home court. You need to take win your home games and split on the road. You do that and you’re fine.”
Veteran Tynice Martin understands the importance of the game.
“Every game is like that for us. We take it kind of personal. We get up every game. Coach Carey fires us up. No matter how many wins we have, he kind of lets us know that we have to stay humble. We haven’t gotten there yet,” the senior said.
“The last two years we’ve been in the NIT and he’s making sure we don’t go down that road again. This is a big game just like every other game.”
And the freshmen like KK Deans get it, too.
“This is a big game,” she said. “We’re going to be ready. We’ll fight. if everyone does their part and plays their role, we’ll have the same outcome we’ve been having.”
Carey believes he has the makings of a team that can compete this year, despite its youth.
“There’s times we played very well. There’s games we played very well, and there were games when we didn’t. We’re still inconsistent. Our inside game needs to get a lot better. We’re not getting a lot of scoring from that right now,” he said.
“We have to take some pressure off our guards becaue they are overloading on that because we’re not scoring inside. We have to keep getting better. The season is early and we have a lot of tough games coming up. We’ll see where we’re at against Texas.”
Texas is a team that relies on two big inside players and that plays a physical game, winning five of its last six games.
“I’ve been watching tape and they are playing better. They are playing with more energy. The Higgs girl is playing better now that she has gotten used to playing again. She sat our last year,” Carey said, referring to second team All-Big 12 player Lashann Higgs, who played four games last season before ending it with knee surgery.
“They are a good team. They are very big, very strong, physical. They have athletes out on the perimeter. We are going to have to defend them. What makes them tougher is the 4 and 5 will pop out for 3s. We have to defend that.”
Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel