WVU Cuts Down Nets As Big 12 Champs - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

WVU Cuts Down Nets As Big 12 Champs

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MORGANTOWN -

Mike Carey waited patiently on the Coliseum court, watching the rest of his team climb the rungs of a ladder and take a pair of scissors to the net that would soon come down from the rim that held it in place.

Each snip of the nylon represented an offseason conditioning drill, an hours-long practice, an inconvenient but necessary study hall session and of course, a victory.

Twenty-seven victories, to be exact.

Carey watched five seniors whose impact on the game, on the season and on his career cannot be understated. They cut away at that net. Years from now, each of these Mountaineers will look at those few inches that once hung above the Coliseum court and they will think, "Big 12 champions."

That is what the West Virginia University women's basketball team can call itself following Tuesday night's 67-60 victory over Kansas. Conference champions.

The No. 7 Mountaineers (27-3, 16-2) clinched at least a share of the regular season crown with the win, wrapping up a year that began with a loss on that very same court, but ended like a storybook may.

There are goals left to accomplish, certainly. Asya Bussie did not enter her senior season with dreams that would end in the regular season. This weekend, the Big 12 conference tournament begins in Oklahoma City and the following week will find the Mountaineers on their quest to reach Nashville, the site of the Final Four.

But before the team refocuses on what remains ahead of it, WVU is able to clear off a place for its brand new trophy.

Tuesday started with the high emotions of Senior Night as Bussie joined Christal Caldwell, Taylor Palmer, Jess Harlee and Brooke Hampton in the starting five. Hampton, still recovering from a knee injury, was immediately substituted out of the game after the opening tip to a roaring applause from the more than 5,000 in attendance.

"That's the way to take these girls out. Great crowd," Carey said after the win. "Our girls really appreciated that and I really appreciated it, too. Those girls deserved that."

Bussie and Caldwell each contributed 14 points with sophomore guard Bria Holmes scoring 16 to lead the team. Harlee added another nine points and Palmer put five on the board.

The Mountaineers were able to withstand a few runs from the Jayhawks and some dry spells of their own, shooting just under 39 percent from the field. WVU's defense forced 17 turnovers in the game to ensure that the emotion of Senior Night did not take away from the intensity the home team played with.

"There are going to be ups and downs, Coach Carey told us that from the beginning of the game," said Palmer. "We just had to stay focused and we had a goal and just wanted to get it."

In the end, there they were at midcourt just as they are after every home game – win or lose. Surrounded by a flock of flashing cameras, the Mountaineers broke their huddle, acknowledged the crowd and then joined John Denver and the thousands in the stands, swaying along to the melody of "Country Roads."

This time, its meaning was amplified.

For the five seniors, this was the last time playing in their version of the "home" that Denver sings of, the place they belong.

"Being a part of a team can be a great thing," said Caldwell. "It teaches you so much about yourself and it just helps you grow as a person. Not only as a basketball player, but you can take some of the things that you've learned out here with your teammates and take it and relate it to life. I've learned a lot from Coach Carey. I think he's prepared me a lot for what's going to happen in the real world."

What these five have accomplished since making the decision to take their game to Morgantown is remarkable. With a solid foundation laid and young players waiting in the wing for their turn to keep the winning tradition going, Caldwell is confident that Tuesday night's result was a sign of things to come for West Virginia women's basketball.

"When I come back I'm going to think that I watched these girls grow and I actually played with them for a few years and I have a special bond with them," said Caldwell. "When I come back, I'm going to see them doing well and leading the team."

For now, it's still her team. It's Bussie's team and Palmer's and Harlee's and Hampton's. It's Coach Carey's team and he is already preparing them to refocus with the intention of cutting down a few more nets before putting this season to rest.

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