The Dominion Post  

For these Mountaineers, Brawl not be-all, end-all

Created on:   Wed, Dec 6, 2017   8:13 PM

Last modified:   Wed, Dec 6, 2017   8:13 PM

The Dominion Post

MORGANTOWN — There was some mild curiosity, WVU forward Teana Muldrow admits, when she first saw Pitt on the Mountaineers’ schedule this season, but nothing that got her competitive juices going.

“I always wondered why they were such a big rival to us,” she said. “The same thing with Marshall. It’s always like a, ‘Why is there such a big rivalry there?’

“But the bottom line is there is one, and we’re going to try and come out on top.”

To the players on the 10th-ranked Mountaineers (7-0), the 7 p.m. Dec. 7game, against the Panthers (5-3), at the WVU Coliseum, is just another step on the way to facing teams such as Texas and Baylor, who have become their biggest obstacles throughout their careers.

To the players, this is a game, not THE GAME.

“They don’t have a clue,” said WVU head coach Mike Carey, who is 11-6 against the Panthers. “I was trying to explain it to them as soon as the Texas A&M game was over. I was trying to explain what all goes into the rivalry and they were looking at me like I was crazy.”

Only Marshall (55) and Duquesne (47) have played more games against WVU than the Panthers (45).

Tonight’s meeting is the first in a two-game series that Carey said was created by keeping the line of communication open once Pitt and WVU both exited the Big East — Pitt for the ACC and WVU for the Big 12 — in 2012.

“After a couple of years, we had always talked about playing again,” Carey said. “It just never worked out before. So, we signed a two-year home-and-home with them. We’ll go their place next year.”

Carey said it would be a wait-and-see situation after next season’s game. “It will just kind of depend on both schools.”

It will be the first meeting between the two schools since Feb. 27, 2012, a 60-42 victory by the Mountaineers.

WVU assistant Christal Caldwell scored seven points in that game.

“Now Christal Caldwell is fired up, because she played them,” Carey said. “Our girls were looking at her like she was crazy. It was good to see they were looking at her crazy instead of me all the time.”

WVU owns a 26-19 lead in the all-time series that dates to 1974, the first year of the WVU program. The Mountaineers have won three straight against Pitt.

“None of us really know what’s it like to play them, but we know the history and tradition of it,” Muldrow said. “We don’t want to let our university down going up against them. We want to keep the winning streak alive.”

Pitt is coached by Suzie McConnell-Serio, a two-time U.S. Olympian, who went on to star in the WNBA and then coached the Minnesota Lynx, before moving to the college coaching ranks.

The Panthers advanced to the second round of the 2015 NCAA tournament in McConnell-Serio’s second season, but won just 13 games in each of the last two seasons.

“We’re playing West Virginia for the first time in five years, since the Big East days,” McConnell-Serio said in a story posted on Pitt’s athletic website. “There are so many great battles in this series’ history. We’re excited to add another chapter to this rivalry and give it everything we’ve got against the No. 10 team in the country.”