West Virginia women look to solidify NCAA tourney status against TCU

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – West Virginia’s women’s basketball roster size has shrunk since opening the Big 12 season against TCU on Jan. 2, but in every other way the Mountaineers have grown by leaps and bounds.

West Virginia (17-6, 8-4) has won eight of its 11 games since opening the Big 12 schedule with a lackluster 62-48 loss to the Horned Frogs. The Mountaineers get a chance to demonstrate their midseason growth spurt in a 2 p.m. tip against TCU (18-6, 8-5) at WVU Coliseum.

“We’ve grown defensively, we’ve grown as a team and we have more discipline,” said senior forward Naomi Davenport. “As we’ve played through the Big 12, that’s been a big part of our wins – our discipline and being able to defend.”

West Virginia is coming off an improbable win in a season that has seen several of them. Already down to eight available players due to injuries, the Mountaineers had no one left to sub into the game at Texas Tech on Wednesday night after three players fouled out.

WVU still erased an eight-point deficit in the fourth quarter to pull out the 75-72 win.

“We had five players left, but we were still in the game,” said guard Tynice Martin. “I just said ‘One stop. One possession.’ When Lucky [Rudd] fouled out, I think everybody put down their head a little bit, but I tried to keep everyone high. Coach [Mike] Carey said we needed to rebound, score, and play defense. That’s exactly what we did.”

The Mountaineers are used to gutting out games, going 7-2 since a high ankle sprain sidelined senior guard Katrina Pardee, the team’s top 3-point shooter.

“It’s been over a month, so we’re used to playing with eight players,” Carey said. “But I would like to see our post players avoid foul trouble in the first quarter. That made it tough going down the stretch.”

All eight remaining players will likely need to contribute in a crucial game against the Horned Frogs. Only five games remain in the regular season after Saturday, and four are against teams unlikely to reach the NCAA tournament. The season finale is against juggernaut Baylor, the nation’s top-ranked team.

That leaves Saturday’s game as the one that will potentially make the most impact on the NCAA tournament selection committee.

“We need a great crowd in here because this is a really big game for us in trying to make it into the NCAAs,” Carey said. “And we need to play well. I hope a lot has changed since our first conference game.”

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