|The Mountaineers held up the Big 12 Conference Regular-Season Championship trophy following Tuesday's win over Kansas.
|Dale Sparks/All-Pro Photography photo
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The No. 7 West Virginia women’s basketball team defeated Kansas, 67-60, Tuesday night, for a share of the Big 12 Regular-Season title.
“To win the Big 12 in your second year is great. And to do it with this group is great. I really mean what I say about these seniors. They deserve this,” coach Mike Carey said. “I think the regular season (title) is (more impressive). We played in two tourney championships in the Big East. It’s just whoever gets hot at the end. I just think the true champion (is the regular season champ), especially in our league where you have to play everyone twice.”
In front of over 5,000 fans, the Mountaineers (27-3, 16-2) captured a women’s basketball conference regular-season title for the first time since 1992. All five West Virginia seniors were honored in their final home game.
“It was a great crowd. I want to thank the whole crowd. Great crowd and great enthusiasm. That’s the way to send these girls off. It was great job by the crowd. Our girls really appreciated that. I really appreciated it, too. Because those girls deserved that, and we were able to get the win,” coach Carey said.
With 27 regular-season wins, the Mountaineers set a new WVU women's basketball program record for most wins in a regular season.
The game went back and forth with seven lead changes, but the Mountaineers took their final lead with 15:28 in the game. WVU stretched to a double-digit lead with just over 11 minutes remaining, and took its largest lead, 62-49, with just under four minutes to play. The Jayhawks (12-18, 5-13) made an effort to cut the deficit and came within five on a Natalie Knight jumper with 1:59 left, but WVU pulled back out with a layup from Bria Holmes
, followed by a pair of free throws to seal the win.
The Jayhawks recorded higher shooting percentages in all categories. Kansas shot 42.1 percent (24-57) from the field, 23.5 percent (4-17) from 3-point range and 61.5 percent (8-13) from the free throw line. WVU shot 38.6 percent (27-70), 22.2 percent (2-9) from beyond the arc and 57.9 percent (11-19) from the charity stripe.
Holmes led WVU with 16 points, while seniors Asya Bussie
and Christal Caldwell
each added 14 points. Senior Jess Harlee
matched her season-high point total with nine. Harlee also grabbed four steals and added two blocks. Bussie led the Mountaineers on the boards with nine, helping WVU edge out Kansas, 45-39, in rebounding. Harlee, Caldwell and Holmes each added six rebounds.
“Jess runs the floor so well. She stretches the defense because she runs so far. And she’s always creating something on the defensive end. She creates fast breaks for us. She hustles. We took like two or three charges down the stretch. I know Taylor was involved in one, and I guarantee Jess was involved in one. She just does the little things – the dirty work. She’s done that for four years now,” Carey said.
CeCe Harper recorded a game-leading 19 points, while Knight and Gardner added 17 and 11 points, respectively. KU was led in rebounding by Asia Boyd with eight boards.
The Mountaineers earned a bye in the 2014 Phillips 66 Big 12 Women’s Basketball Championship held at the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Okla. As a No. 2 seed, WVU will face the winner of the first round game, held on Friday at 9:30 p.m. ET, between No. 7 TCU and No. 10 Texas Tech. WVU tips off in the quarterfinal round at 7 p.m. ET, on Saturday, March 8. The game will air live nationally on Fox Sports Net.