WVU Overcomes Odds, Bests Baylor for Big 12 Title - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

WVU Overcomes Odds, Bests Baylor for Big 12 Title

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Tynice Martin averaged 27 points per game in the Big 12 Tournament on her way to being named Most Outstanding Player. (PHOTO: Geoff Coyle) Tynice Martin averaged 27 points per game in the Big 12 Tournament on her way to being named Most Outstanding Player. (PHOTO: Geoff Coyle)
MORGANTOWN -

When Mike Carey packed his bags for Oklahoma City, he knew his team had work to do if it wanted to get off of the bubble and into the field for the NCAA Tournament.

On Tuesday, Carey and the West Virginia women’s basketball team will travel back to the Mountain State with hardware in hand after securing the program’s first-ever Big 12 Tournament championship.

The Mountaineers knocked off top seed Baylor by a final of 77-66, denying the Lady Bears from winning their seventh-straight tournament title. Sophomore guard Tynice Martin led the way with 32 points on her way to earning Most Outstanding Player honors.

The win earns West Virginia an automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament.

A team that struggled during the regular season due to its lack of depth somehow found a way to win three games in three days in spite of a short bench. The Mountaineers claimed the title while picking off No. 19 Oklahoma, No. 12 Texas and No. 2 Baylor on consecutive nights.

“Give all the credit to our players,” Carey said after the trophy ceremony. “They knew coming down here that we had to win at least one or two games and I told them after the second game, hell, we might as well go and win the third one since we’re here.”

Two days before, Carey said he actually had to stop the team’s shootaround early because he could see the players had so much energy that he feared they would spend it all before the games even began. That energy, combined with the focus and the body language that he saw in practice, is how Carey knew the Mountaineers meant business in Oklahoma City.

After three quarters of action, West Virginia had built up a 21-point lead and was staring at the finish line, desperate to make it across with a title. That’s the first time he saw fatigue accompany his team onto the court.

“I could just tell we were about out of gas and instead of attacking their press and attacking their zone, we were just getting some bad shots and wasn’t getting to the rim,” Carey said. “We don’t play a lot of people and to play three games in three nights against the caliber of teams that we played, they did just a fantastic job.

West Virginia placed two players on the all-tournament team, with Teana Muldrow joining Martin.

“Very few times in 31 years of coaching I can ever think of one player took her team on her shoulders and won three games and Martin did that,” Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said. “It can wear on you a bit when you think, God, I guarded her pretty good and then she elevated it and just made it in your face.”

The sophomore leads the Mountaineers in scoring as she was named to the All-Big 12 First Team in her second season. Her motivation going into the tournament was not to earn herself accolades, but rather to ensure that her senior center didn’t find herself back in Morgantown preparing for a stint in the WNIT for her final postseason.

“We had to do it for Lanay [Montgomery],” Martin said. “I wanted to send Lanay out with a championship and that’s what we did.”

Baylor had won the last six conference tournaments prior to Monday night. The Lady Bears won their seventh-straight regular season championship this year. In just five seasons in the Big 12, West Virginia has now won a share of the regular season championship (2013-14) and the tournament title.

“We’re so far from West Virginia, Morgantown, we don’t get a lot of fans here,” Carey said Monday night. “The fans we did have here, we appreciate it. I can hear them. When the game was over, they were really singing Country Roads and that’s all that mattered, that we heard that song at the end.”

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