MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — On a championship night that carried extra sweetness for West Virginia’s five seniors, Bria Holmes was all too happy to play sixth man.

After deferring to a starting lineup of five seniors—including injured guard Brooke Hampton taking a ceremonial opening tip—the sophomore Holmes scored 16 points and the No. 7 Mountaineers beat Kansas 67-60 for a share of the Big 12 championship.

A crowd of 5,052 was on hand, the second-largest home crowd of the season, to see West Virginia (27-3, 16-2) hoist the trophy. Even though No. 9 Baylor (26-4, 16-2) secured its piece of a fourth consecutive title by whipping Iowa State 70-54 in Ames, that didn’t diminish the celebration in Morgantown.

MORE: Reaction from the Big 12 co-champs

“To win the Big 12 in your second year is great, and to do it with this group is great,” said coach Mike Carey. “I really mean what I say about these seniors—they deserve this.

“I want to thank the whole crowd—great crowd and great enthusiasm. Our girls really appreciated that. That’s the way to send these girls off.”

Hampton, out since suffering a knee injury in mid-February, was inserted into the starting five for the first time all season. She exited just two seconds into the game when West Virginia called timeout after claiming the tipoff. Also in the lineup for the first time was senior co-captain Jess Harlee, and another honoree, Taylor Palmer, made only her third start. They joined regulars Asya Bussie and Christal Caldwell, who scored 14 points each.

“A lot of tears, a lot of sweat,” said Bussie, whose career was prolonged because of last season’s medical redshirt. “It feels really good. This is something that we’ve always wanted, all throughout our careers. It’s a good feeling finally achieving this goal.”

Though Carey’s first 12 West Virginia teams averaged 20-plus wins and reached nine postseason tournaments, none were able to end the program’s title drought that stretched back to 1992. But after this team proved different, winning 10 straight to close the regular season, including Sunday’s signature upset at then-No. 6 Baylor.

By Tuesday night, there was an overwhelming sense of accomplishment—and a little relief—after the Mountaineers disposed of Kansas (12-18, 5-13). West Virginia had a quiet night from 3-point range, finishing 2-of-9, and shot only 39 percent overall. The difference was a 17-9 edge in forced turnovers and WVU’s 45-39 edge on the glass. Bussie grabbed nine of those rebounds.

Based on conference tiebreakers, the Lady Bears grabbed the top seed in the Big 12 tournament, while West Virginia settled for No. 2. Both earned first-round byes and will play Saturday in Oklahoma City, with WVU drawing the TCU-Texas Tech winner.

For once, however, Carey wasn’t so focused on the next opponent. As his players took turns trimming down the nets, he wanted them to savor the moment.

“I just said ‘Let’s enjoy this,’ and I gave them one day off.”

Kansas threatened to play spoiler much of the night and even led 36-34 with 17 minutes left on a Bunny Williams layup. Then Linda Stepney drove for the tying basket that sparked a 19-7 WVU run over the ensuing six minutes.

During a later stretch, West Virginia held Kansas without a field goal for 5:41. The lead ballooned to as much as 13 and never shrank below five points. When the game tightened up at 64-59, Bussie grabbed an offensive rebound and WVU reset, leading to Holmes’ backbreaking layup at the 1:19 mark.

Holmes was active and impactful, scoring 10 points in the second half on 5-of-7 shooting. And when the victory was done and the title was won, she couldn’t fathom how far her team had progressed. Remember opening night on this same Coliseum floor? When Ohio State beat WVU handily? Those Buckeyes own a 15-17 record now. The Mountaineers of March show little semblance to the Mountaineers of November.

For sure, Holmes and other underclassmen have helped WVU make its climb, yet Tuesday night was a culmination that belonged to the seniors.

Harlee produced nine points and, like Caldwell, grabbed six rebounds. Palmer played some point guard like she was in high school. Carey had a hug for each senior who paraded to the bench.

“A lot of tears, a lot of sweat. It feels really good. This is something that we’ve always wanted, all throughout our careers.” — senior center Asya Bussie

The postgame singing of “Country Roads” sounded more gleeful than ever and that was before someone pulled away a blue table cloth off to reveal the Big 12 trophy.

“We didn’t know we were going to get the trophy—we thought we were just going to get T-shirts or something,” said Palmer.

CeCe Harper scored 19 points and Natalie Knight added 17 for the Jayhawks.

“They really did a nice job defensively and (when) we turned it over, they scored,” said Kansas coach Bonnie Henrickson, whose team will be seeded eighth in Oklahoma City.

The Mountaineers strengthened their case for a flattering NCAA tournament position. Several projections have WVU as a No. 2 seed, which would suit Carey just fine.

“It’s all about seeding and location,” he said. “Hopefully we’ll be a 2 or 3 seed.”

Ben Queen/MetroNews photo

Christal Caldwell (1) and her West Virginia teammates sing “Country Roads” after beating Kansas to share the Big 12 championship.
bubble graphic


bubble graphic


  • hailey

    The unsung HERO was Coach Porcha who is no longer with the program...great job bringing the talent and great job by Coach Carey preparing them!


    Kudos to the Lady WVU team. You led the way with a wonderful BIG12 season, and our first conference championship. You can't beat a great TEAM effort and an excellent coaching staff. So keep on keeping on; and always Goooo Mountaineers Ladies.

  • WVU fan in Boston

    Thank you WVU Ladies for teamwork, dedication to each other and the coaching staff.
    This team deserves a number 1 seating in EAST, forget about Louisville and UConn.

    Go Get'm Girls!!!



    Is this our first Big 12 Championship ?

    Way to go Girls!!!!!!!

    "No matter where you are tonight it is a great night to be a Mountaineer " !!!!!!!!!!!

    Thank you so much girls, as a Mountaineer fan I needed this so much!!!!

    I Love you girls so much, thanks for playing for WVU and I heard something that not one girl was been picked to be the Big 12 player of the week, well I see that as a blessing because it shows me that you girls have gotten to where you are by playing as a team!!!! (that is what it is all about) Great Job!!!

    Let's GOOOOOOOOO!!!!Mountaineeeeeeeers!!!!!!

    • Guardian

      WVU Fan - the WVU women's soccer team have won the Big 12 twice.

      Fabulous job by the women's basketball team! They are very deserving. Coach Carey is underrated as well - great job, Mike!!

    • Aaron

      No, our ladies soccer team is two time Big 12 Champions

  • Buck

    And Carey did it without a sweat suit. Great job, gang!

    • rlr

      Ive never seen so many grown men obsess over what head coaches wear. Get a life!

      • Jason

        Just curious, how do you know if the people posting on here are men or women?

        • Uncle Unctuous

          Good point. In the context of their comments, "William" and "Buck" might seem a little girlish to some people!

  • jay zoom

    ITS GREAT TO BE A LADY MOUNTAINEER FAN WHERE EVER YOU MAY BE. congratulations ladies you have done yourself proud and the state of West Virginia proud. good luck in the big 12 tournament and the NCAA tourney. As Jimmy V. said don't give up don't ever give up and you ladies can take yourself to the top. THANKS FOR A GREAT SEASON.

  • Dub V Fan

    Congrats lady eers !!! Keep it rolling in the tourneys !!!

  • usaray

    great team! Go WV!

  • CaptainQ

    Congratulations to the WVU Women's BB team for this great achievement! The Lady Mountaineers could be the "Belle of the Ball" at their Big Dance!

    Too bad Coach Huggins can't get the WVU Men's team to play at this level.

  • Woodchuck

    What a great great season for these hard working dedicated ladies and coaching staff. Nice to see some media coverage that they certainly deserve. Let's hope they are covered in OK City.

  • WVcoal

    Mike Carey can flat out coach. He has pulled this team from the rubble to a Big 12 Championship and beyond.
    Congratulations to the ladies and Mike.

  • Aaron

    There is absolutely nothing like hearing Country Road after a WVU victory. A couple of years back when Marshall's Band Director dropped the song from their playlist, I thought it was a mistake. After nights like last night, while the song is all of West Virginia's, in the terms of a university sporting event, it is uniquely West Virginia University.

    Congratulations go out to the Lady Mountaineer's for winning their first of many WVU titles. Go bring home the trophy from the tournament and then off to more. There's no reason this team cannot make it to Nashville and play for a National Championship.

    What a great day to be a Mountaineer.

    • Jason

      Considering there is not one native WV girl on the roster, I wonder if their friends/families poke fun at them when then go home, regarding singing Country Roads.

      • Aaron

        Not if they've ever been in the stands after a night like last night and heard thousands of fans singing at the top of their lungs.

        Hopefully these young ladies will experience in Kansas City what our men experienced in New York a few years ago in that complete strangers are suddenly belting out Country Roads.

        They may not be from West Virginia but there's not doubt these young ladies will ALWAYS be West Virginian Mountaineers.

  • joey

    maybe now we can see these girls on national tv. team & coach get no respect. yahoo girls sports page had Baylor's story first, & wvu's story eighth. mike has always been great coach, but i didn't think he would make it with the girls. this guy would fight a chainsaw. i hoped he would coach the men's team before hugs got there. great job girls now make a deep run in both tournaments. get er done.

  • Country Roads

    Soooooo proud of you ladies, just a unbelievable wonderful season for you. So glad for you and the Mountaineer nation. I love it. Great job coach Carey you are one heck of a coach...

  • richierich

    Way to go women! This shows that WVU
    can compete in the Big 12. It can be done!!

    • Jason

      Yep, the women on the basketball and soccer teams have proven they can compete in the Big XII.

      • Uncle Unctuous

        It is more correct to say that they have proven that they can contend for and win conference championships. To imply that the other men's and women's teams cannot compete is to deny their hard work and dedication, and the fact that there have been significant victories in conference across several sports. And that's unfair to the student athletes. Championship caliber? No. Uncompetitive? Absolutely not.