MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The No. 11-seeded West Virginia women’s basketball team will be making its ninth NCAA tournament appearance this Sunday, March 24 at 12:15 p.m., in Newark, Del., against the sixth-seeded Delaware at the Bob Carpenter Center.
The tournament appearance is the fourth consecutive, sixth in the last seven years and the seventh overall under head coach Mike Carey. The Mountaineers (17-13), who closed out their inaugural season in the Big 12 Conference in sixth place with a 9-9 league mark, have made it to the second round of the NCAA tournament five times under Carey and seven times in the history of the program.
“It is good we got in. To me that says the strength of the league, our reputation and some of the wins we had on the road; we’re happy to be in,” coach Mike Carey said. “We got a really good draw. We have to play on Delaware’s home floor and that’s a good draw for us because it’s close so hopefully we can get some fans there.”
This is the fourth consecutive year and seventh time overall the Big 12 Conference has had seven teams called to the NCAA tournament. This season’s teams included regular-season, conference and defending national champion Baylor, who was selected No. 1 overall. Iowa State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Kansas were all invited beside West Virginia.
“We played against great competition night in and night out and to lose three players is tough, but that says a lot about the other players that are still playing that we were able to win some key games and win enough games to get in the NCAA,” Carey explained. “I felt we were .500 in the No. 1-RPI league in the country and the NCAA more than likely was at least going to take five teams out of the Big 12, or six teams out of the Big 12; I just felt that was going to be done. Now you never know, so we’re extremely pleased and happy. “
The Mountaineers have been a No. 11 seed two other times in program history. In 2004, WVU fell to No. 6 Ohio State on its home court, 73-67. In 2007, the Mountaineers defeated sixth-seeded Xavier, 65-52, before narrowly falling to eventual Final Four participant No. 3 LSU, 49-43, in the second round in Austin, Texas.
The Blue Hens (30-3) closed out the Colonial Athletic Association as the regular-season and tournament champions. Delaware completed its second straight perfect season through the CAA, extending its school-record season win streak to 25 straight games, upped its overall win streak to 42 consecutive over conference opponents and clinched their second straight 30-win season. UD’s winning streak is the third longest active streak in the NCAA behind Baylor (30) and Notre Dame (26).
Elena Delle Donne paces the Blue Hens with 25.3 points per game, the second highest scoring average in the nation. Delle Donne also leads the team with 63 blocks and is second on the team with 230 rebounds. Delle Donne and Danielle Parker lead the team with 8.5 rebounds per game. Delle Donne shoots 49.8 percent (240-482) from the field and 49.0 percent (153-166) from beyond the arc. Kayla Miller leads the team with 108 assists, while Lauren Carra is the only other player scoring in double figures with 11.1 points per game.
“She (Delle Donne) is a big time player, needless to say. Some of their other players are very good so you can’t just concentrate on her and let the other players have a career night,” Carey said. “We’re going to have to be aware of where she’s at and try to do a good job on her, but also do a good job on the rest of them.”
The Mountaineers enter Sunday's game after falling to the No. 3-seeded Oklahoma Sooners in the Big 12 Quarterfinals. West Virginia found itself with a 19-point halftime lead, but Oklahoma used a 40-point second-half surge to come from behind, handing the Mountaineers a 65-64 early exit. Since their last loss, however, the Mountaineers have continued to prepare for postseason play.
“We’ve been doing a lot of fundamentals, defensively and offensively, and a lot of breakdowns,” Carey said. “We have really been concentrating on execution in the half-court set. With that being said, I’ve given them some days off and have cut practice back a little bit.”
The winner of Sunday’s West Virginia-Delaware matchup will advance to face the winner of Sunday’s No. 3-seed North Carolina vs. No. 14-seed Albany matchup on Tuesday, March 26. Sunday’s games will air live nationally on ESPN2.