In 2017, the West Virginia women’s basketball team entered the Big 12 Tournament at a crossroads. At 8-10 in conference play, they needed to make a run to make NCAAs – and they responded by winning the whole thing for the first time ever.
One year later, the circumstances haven’t changed. The Mountaineers are again 8-10 and again desperately need to make something happen. But West Virginia’s veteran core knows what it takes to win it, and they will take their shot starting Friday against Oklahoma State.
“We have three of them that made it,” Carey said. “We’re going down there to try and win some games. It’s not going to be easy and we’ve struggled here at the end, but we can turn it around a little bit.”
Forward Teana Muldrow, point guard Chania Ray and shooting guard Katrina Pardee all contributed heavily to West Virginia’s banner-raising run in Oklahoma City last year, and Carey believes that he can count on them to be prepared for what awaits them this year.
But it’s the rest of the roster that Carey is depending on to make a big stride. To get a run going, West Virginia must first beat an Oklahoma State team that beat them twice in the regular season, and the status quo will just not do.
“We need the others to step up and play well,” Carey said. “Play defense and listen, take care of the ball. I was telling them the other day, there’s about three people on this team that I can write down and they’re very consistent. Past that, I have no idea what the rest of them are going to do.”
West Virginia faced the Cowgirls (20-9, 11-7 Big 12) most recently in Morgantown less than a week ago, leading by as much as 14 in the first half before fading to a 79-69 loss. The Mountaineers also lost 79-73 when these two teams played in Stillwater on January 17.
On both occasions, West Virginia struggled to contain Oklahoma State’s star senior guard Loryn Goodwin, the Big 12’s leading scorer. Goodwin dropped 30 in Stillwater before turning in a tidy, in-control 22-point, 8-assist performance in Morgantown last Saturday – Cowgirl center Kaylee Jensen also contributed 17 points and 17 rebounds in the latter game.
To stop Goodwin, West Virginia will need a locked-in defensive performance from Ray, their scrappy senior point guard. But Ray is continuing to struggle with a knee injury that has bothered her for several weeks, and the task of potentially having to play games in three straight days is a daunting one.
“Chania’s used to doing that, but with her knee, it’s a big challenge for her,” Carey said. “We haven’t practiced her since the last game. For her to go back-to-back-to-back, she’d do it because she’s a tough individual and would be right out there trying to play hard. But you can just tell when she needs that quickness she doesn’t have it and as the game goes on her knee bothers her.”
But to achieve their goal and defend their Big 12 title, West Virginia will have to do just that. And as the sixth seed in the tournament, their path looks set to lead them through the top three teams in the conference: Oklahoma State, No. 7 Texas and No. 3 Baylor, squads they have gone a combined 0-6 against this year.
West Virginia’s quest for the Big 12 Tournament title will start Friday at 9:30 p.m. from the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, and the game will be televised at AT&T Sportsnet Pittsburgh.