MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The ninth-seeded West Virginia women’s basketball team will be making its seventh NCAA tournament appearance this Sunday at the Ferrell Center in Waco, Texas, against eighth-seeded Houston with tipoff set for 5 p.m. ET.
The Mountaineers travel to the Lone Star State for the NCAA tournament for the third time in program history. Last season, WVU defeated Lamar in the first round, but fell at the hands of San Diego State in the second round in Austin, Texas. The first time WVU played in Texas for the tournament was in 2007 as it defeated Xavier, but fell to LSU, 49-43.
“I was surprised. I didn’t think that we were going to be playing in Texas again. I thought we would be in California and then I heard maybe Knoxville. I wasn’t expecting Texas again, but it is exciting,” said Sarah Miles, the San Antonio, Texas, native. “We have a lot of confidence because we know we can play. It is all or nothing and one and done.”
The tournament appearance marks the team's fourth in the last five years and the fifth under head coach Mike Carey. The Mountaineers have made it to the second round of the NCAA tournament three times under Carey and five times in the history of the program.
Currently ranked No. 22 in the Associated Press poll, Houston also qualified with an at-large bid as it went 26-5 overall this season and 16-0 in Conference USA, falling to Tulane, 70-60, in the league’s semifinals.
The Cougars are coached by C-USA Coach of the Year Todd Buchanan in his first season at the helm of the program, and have the league’s player of the year in Courtney Taylor, who averages 15.7 points per game and pulls down 11.4 rebounds a game. Three others average scoring numbers in double figures with Brittney Scott and Porsche Landry also averaging over 15 points per game. Lesslee Mason averages 11 points per game and also serves as a rebounding threat, pulling down 9.1 rebounds a game.
“We played them a couple of years ago but they have new coach and do a lot of different things,” WVU head coach Mike Carey said. “I expected to be an eight or a nine seed. There is no one to blame but ourselves. We have to take care of business first. We need to focus on Houston, and then worry about who we will play in the second round. We have to go on their home court. If we can get by Houston, a team from Texas, then we will turn around and play Baylor.”
Prior to its loss in the semifinals of the conference tournament, Houston had a 17-game win streak. The Cougars are making their sixth appearance at the NCAA tournament in program history, holding a 1-4 record in the postseason games.
Seven current WVU women’s basketball players have had experience in the NCAA tournament, combining for 428 minutes, 115 points and 78 rebounds. Senior Korinne Campbell is unique in that she has collected the most minutes with 93 as she played her sophomore season for Minnesota. With the Golden Gophers, Campbell played 26 minutes and pulled down nine rebounds, but Minnesota fell, 72-55, to Texas in the first round.
Seniors Sarah Miles and Liz Repella, who have spent their full four-year careers at WVU, have played 79 and 78 minutes, respectively, in NCAA tournament games. Repella leads all current Mountaineers in scoring in NCAA postseason games as she has collected 33 points in four games (8.3 ppg), with a career-best 17 points for an NCAA tournament game against San Diego State last season. She is the only current player to have played in four games. In both rounds of last season’s tournament, Repella contributed a double-double, while Miles had double-figure scoring games in each. Repella’s 12 rebounds in the final game tied a WVU individual game-high in NCAA Tournament games.
The Mountaineers have recorded a 23-9 overall record and an 8-8 mark in the BIG EAST Conference. WVU’s defense has held eight teams under 60 points and all but three opponents under 50 percent shooting. The Mountaineers allow opponents 52.2 points per game, the ninth-lowest defensive scoring average in the nation.
Repella, who has played in 132 games as a Mountaineer, leads WVU in scoring as she averages 13.9 points per game and pulls down 5.6 rebounds a game. Fellow co-captain Madina Ali leads the team in rebounding with 7.0 boards a game and is the only other Mountaineer averaging scoring numbers in double figures with 12.7 points per game. Miles enters the postseason play as the third-leading scorer with 8.7 points per game, totaling 984 points in her career.
The Mountaineers hold a 2-0 overall series advantage, dating back to 2005, with the Cougars. The last time the teams met, on November 30, 2006, WVU defeated Houston, 73-47, at the WVU Coliseum.
The winner of Sunday’s game will face the No. 1 Baylor-No. 16 Prairie View winner on Tuesday, March 22 at 8:30 p.m.