The Dominion Post  

Mountaineers in a familiar position

Created on:   Fri, Mar 2, 2018   11:33 PM

Last modified:   Fri, Mar 2, 2018   11:33 PM

For The Dominion Post

OKLAHOMA CITY — In 2017, the WVU women’s basketball team did the improbable. The Mountaineers took home the Big 12 tournament championship after finishing the regular season with a record under .500.

Not only did the Mountaineers earn a spot in the NCAA tournament, but they also had to beat three ranked teams in order to do it.

WVU finds itself in the same position again heading into the 2018 Big 12 tournament, at Chesapeake Arena. With the same 8-10 conference record and No. 6 seed, the Mountaineers are hoping lightning will strike twice for them.

“You know it’s all about defending your title. Any team wants to do that,” WVU’s Chania Ray said. “We just have to kind of do what it takes, and do what we didn’t do early in the season. Every little detail matters, so we have to take care of the little things, and obviously we want to win it again.

“Who wouldn’t?”

However, coach Mike Carey is quick to point out that this year’s squad doesn’t have the same makeup as the one that beat Oklahoma, Texas and Baylor to claim the 2017 crown.

“It’s not the exact same players either. Last year, coming in here, we had Lanay Montgomery and Tynice Martin playing,” Carey said. “But we do have three players that played in that tournament, Katrina Pardee, Chania Ray and Teana (Muldrow), so they know what to expect. The rest of them really weren’t on the team. We have some other veterans, but they’re hurt and not playing, so really it’s those three.”

Carey has been critical of his squad at times this year. He didn’t hold back on what he has seen as some of the team’s issues on the eve of another postseason run.

“We need to find five people that’ll play hard for 40 minutes, and play consistent,” Carey said. “Last year at this time, we were doing that, and here at the end of the season, we weren’t playing consistent, and we had some players not playing hard. We know this is if you lose, you go home, so hopefully we’ll come out and play that way.”

WVU (20-10, 8-10 Big 12) will face No. 3 seed Oklahoma State (20-9, 11-7 Big 12) in the quarterfinals at 9:30 p.m. March 3. In the two match-ups against the Cowgirls during the regular season, the Mountaineers came up on the losing end.

Despite that, WVU knows what it has to do in order to have success.

“First and foremost, we need to play defense, and lock into doing what we know how to do,” Muldrow said. “Coach is really big on defense. He’s the defensive coach, so we do what we know how to do, and just play defense, and move the ball and get space in, things like that, and we’ll be fine.”

While Carey has not been happy with the inconsistent play of his Mountaineers this season, he is hoping the postseason inspires them to play at a level he has rarely seen this season.

“If you can’t get up for the tournament, you’re probably not going to get up for any game,” Carey said. “The problem is, every team down here, they know this is their last game, so everybody’s going to play a little bit harder, go a little bit tougher. So, we’ll see. We’ve got to come out. Needless to say, we’re not very deep, so we need to stay out of foul trouble, and then people coming in off the bench need to play hard and contribute.”

For Muldrow, Ray and the rest of the seniors, no matter what happens this weekend, this will be the final Big 12 tournament for them. They can’t think of a better way to close out their careers than to do the improbable for the second straight year.

“We want to go out the same way we did last year, but just to know this is my last time I’ll be playing in OKC in this tournament, it’s kind of like a bittersweet moment,” Ray said. “Obviously, we’re going to give it our all, and I’m personally going to give it my all, and hopefully we can get the same results as last year.”