MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Having wrecked Baylor’s senior night, the No. 7-ranked West Virginia women aim to savor theirs.
Just 48 hours removed from an emotional and electrifying victory in Waco, the recharged Mountaineers shoot for a piece of the Big 12 title on Tuesday night against Kansas.
West Virginia (26-3, 15-2), dead-even with Baylor entering the final night of the regular season, plans to honor five seniors who comprise the nucleus of what coach Mike Carey called his deepest and most selfless team.
Asya Bussie, who took a medical redshirt last season after a knee injury, said she couldn’t fathom how “this life I’ve had for the past five years is about to come to an end.” Christal Caldwell said she was stuck between excitement and sentimentality, realizing it would be her “last time rolling out the carpet, lat time hearing the gun go off.”
They’ll join 1,000-point career scorer Taylor Palmer, scrappy forward Jess Harlee and recently injured Brooke Hampton on what promises to be a memorable night.
“I’ve had a lot of seniors before but not seniors who accepted their roles like this one has,” Carey said. “They don’t care who goes out and scores. Whoever gets hot they feed her the ball.
“And this team likes to play defense. I’ve had teams with three or four players who liked to play defense, but everybody who comes on the floor for us enjoys defense.”
That defensive intensity provided the game-changing moment on Sunday when a WVU trap coerced Baylor All-American Odyssey Sims into a turnover that Averee Fields drove 80 feet for the go-ahead basket with 11 seconds left. At the close of their 71-69 upset, Mountaineers players sprang onto the court, embracing and screaming and sucking the joy out of the Ferrel Center.
“Everybody’s jumping around and that’s great, but the problem is we’ve got to to play Kansas on Tuesday,” reminded Carey in his most curmudgeonly tone. “If you don’t win Tuesday, then you don’t accomplish your goal. I’m just worried that everybody’s telling them how good they are.”
The Mountaineers had ample time to contemplate their monumental win while enduring travel delays and reroutes on the return trip from Texas. Forced to take a three-hour bus ride from Waco to Austin, the team flew toward Clarksburg only to learn the winter storm had shutdown the airport. After landing in Pittsburgh late Sunday, they were greeted by dangerous road conditions and stayed at a Pittsburgh hotel.
The team finally returned to Morgantown on Monday in the nick of time for a midday practice.
As Carey fretted over a letdown—noting that Kansas (12-17, 5-12) was the only other Big 12 team to beat Baylor now-No. 9 Baylor—the WVU veterans vowed to stay on point.
“It’s senior night, and there’s a championship on the line,” Caldwell said. “I think we’ll be ready.”