In their first WNIT round matchup in the WVU Coliseum on Thursday night, the West Virginia Mountaineers outclassed the Patriot League’s Bucknell Bison in every facet of the game, rolling to an 83-50 win on home hardwood.
It was a postseason performance worthy of the man seated at courtside: Texas A&M head football coach Jimbo Fisher, former national champion winner, one of the most well-compensated coaches in America, and most of all, WVU coach Mike Carey’s old buddy from Clarksburg.
“He’s the head coach at Texas A&M, comes to our game, and I haven’t seen Dana (Holgorsen) at a game all year,” Carey said. “Is that not amazing? I can get a guy to come from Texas, but I can’t get a guy to come from Cheat Lake.”
With Carey’s special guest watching on, the Mountaineers rolled through Bucknell to start their WNIT run off on a very good note. West Virginia never trailed after the opening minutes, shooting over 50 percent from both the field and 3-point range, while seizing control of the tempo against a Bucknell team that likes to slow it down.
And needing something out of all of the few players he has to make a deep run in the tournament, Carey was able to take his foot off the pedal and get all of his players into the game, resting his starters up for a coming second round matchup with St. Joseph’s on Sunday.
“I thought we looked a little slower tonight, but we did enough to win,” Carey said. “It was good to play everybody and get everybody some time. We’ve been off a long time here.”
WVU’s entry into the WNIT meant that Senior Night wasn’t the last time that WVU’s senior class took the court in the WVU Coliseum, and the Mountaineers’ seniors took advantage of the opportunity. Forward Teana Muldrow led the way with 20 points and 8 rebounds, while fellow senior Kristina King followed her with 13 points and point guard Chania Ray added 12 points, 4 rebounds and 5 assists.
Defensively, West Virginia stifled Bucknell with their usual high-intensity brand of man-to-man defense, forcing the usually methodical Bison into 23 turnovers and holding them to 35.2 percent shooting from the field.
And once West Virginia seized the momentum, Bucknell wasn’t able to find a chance to stay in the game. The Mountaineers took advantage of Bucknell’s switch to a 2-3 zone in the second quarter and got hot from deep, hitting 9 of their 16 3-point tries as they ran away from the Bison in their blowout win.
“They went to that zone, and they had to get out and we hit probably three or four in a row there,” Carey said. “St. Joe’s will play some 2-3 also, so we’ll see it some on Sunday.”
West Virginia is next set to take on St. Joseph’s (19-14, 10-6 Atlantic 10) in the second round, after the Hawks dominated Seton Hall in the first round 75-57 on Wednesday. The game will be played at a yet-to-be-announced time on Sunday in the WVU Coliseum.