Mountaineers earn share of Big 12 crown
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — In just their second season in the Big 12, the West Virginia women's basketball team earned a share of the regular-season conference title with a 67-60 win over Kansas on Tuesday before 5,052 fans at WVU Coliseum.
The Mountaineers share the championship with No. 9 Baylor, whom they beat Sunday in Waco, Texas, to deny the Lady Bears the title outright and end their 35-game home winning streak against conference opponents.
That win also bumped West Virginia (27-3, 16-2) up from No. 11 to 7 in this week's Associated Press poll. It is the highest they have been ranked this season and is just one spot below the highest-ever ranking for the program.
They debuted in the AP Top 25 this season just six weeks ago at No. 18.
Sophomore guard Bria Holmes led the Mountaineers with 16 points and had six rebounds. Christal Caldwell had 14 points and six rebounds, and Asya Bussie had 14 points and nine rebounds.
It was West Virginia's 10th straight win.
“That was one of the first things we said this summer, that our first goal was to be conference champions, and that's what we did,” Caldwell said.
Last season was West Virginia's first in the Big 12 after exiting the Big East.
The Mountaineers finished with a 9-9 conference record and tied for fifth place with Oklahoma State.
Coach Mike Carey said he believes it's more impressive to win a regular-season conference championship than the conference tournament.
“Especially in our league when you play everybody twice,” he said. “I think in the long haul, with everything that goes on, all the injuries and the travel and all that, to still only lose two games, that says a lot about our players.”
West Virginia led at halftime 32-28. Kansas (12-18, 5-13) went ahead 36-34 early in the second half, but West Virginia went on a 12-4 run, and the Jayhawks called timeout with 12:55 remaining.
That slowed WVU's momentum, but after the Mountaineers turned over the ball, they stole it right back and Caldwell hit a 3-pointer to make it 51-43.
The team received the Big 12 trophy after the game and cut down the net.
“It was surreal,” senior Taylor Palmer said. “We didn't even know we were getting the trophy. We just thought we were getting T-shirts. It's something I'll always remember.”
“I'm very proud of our girls,” Carey said. “It was a tough game, coming off one day of preparation and not a lot of rest. We did enough to win. Needless to say, we have to play a lot better going into the tournament, but we will.”