By MICKEY FURFARI
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
There’s lingering heartbreak in the wake of last Tuesday night’s 76-67 loss to LSU that ended the West Virginia women’s basketball hopes to keep alive in the NCAA Tournament.
The Mountaineers, seeded No. 2 and ranked as high as No. 5 nationally earlier this season, battled the seventh-seeded, home-standing Tigers toe-to-toe on even terms for 35 minutes on LSU’s own Pete Maravich Assembly Center floor.
But WVU simply could not maintain the tight pace and wound up being outscored by a shocking 20-4 margin during the final five minutes of play.
Coach Mike Carey and his players undoubtedly would tell you that was the team’s poorest, if not worst, finish to a game this year.
Obviously, it was the most costly – an end to the Mountaineers’ dream of advancing further in a sixth straight NCAA Tournament appearance.
Make no mistake, however, those five special seniors Carey recruited and coached along with the underclassmen absolutely have nothing of which to be ashamed.
In posting a best-ever 30-5 record and highest-ever national ranking, the 2013-14 women’s team has proved that it is the greatest in the program’s 41-year history. Anyone aware of the Mountaineers’ numerous achievements know that.
What’s more, Carey and his assistants deserve tremendous credit for doing a great job with these extremely talented young women.
Among what most WVU fans consider as the top three major sports, women’s basketball clearly has proved the undisputed leader during the past two or three years.
Unfortunately, though, it doesn’t attract nearly as large crowds as it merits in the Coliseum.
And that’s sad.
Football and men’s basketball are generally considered to be the chief revenue-producers. That is, both are counted on for partially, if not totally, enough money to support the entire fiscal cost of WVU athletics.
However, rising ticket prices and poor records in both of those sports can’t help but hurt over the long haul. You must pay to park, too.
Do these factors affect season-ticket buying adversely or don’t they? We’ll see.
Football, under head coach Dana Holgorsen’s leadership, had a totally unacceptable 4-8 record in 2013. What’s more, the gridders’ record is just 6-14 over the last 20 games.
As for men’s basketball, the results under veteran head coach Bob Huggins – one of the nation’s top five winningest – has not really done well the past three years.
His Mountaineers posted records of 19-14, 13-19 and 17-16 – the latter with a relatively young team.
It seems significant of possible declining interest and inability to pay, that attendance has been lower during these two money-makers’ sudden demise.
Let’s get back to this 2013-14 impressive year of women’s basketball achievement. It’s so much more positive.
I think the Mountaineers played so hard, firmly feeling that it was unfair for a No. 2 seed to play on a No. 7 seed’s home court in a second-round game, that they just ran out of gas.
Coach Carey, said after the LSU game, of his Big 12 Conference co-Champions:
“I told our players for two days that the (LSU) game is going to be won or lost in the paint. You can’t give up 20 offensive rebounds.
“We quit getting the ball inside, and we had it going the second half. We got the lead and we quit going inside.
“I’m proud of our players. They had a great year. We won 30 basketball games. We just felt like we gave one away.”