By MICKEY FURFARI
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Regardless of what happens in tonight’s regular-season finale against Kansas and then in postseason play, the 2013-14 West Virginia University women’s basketball team should be proclaimed as the greatest in the 40-year history of this program.
What’s more, Sunday’s 71-69 comeback conquest of then-No. 6 Baylor in Waco, Texas, has to be rated the most significant victory a women’s team of Mountaineers ever posted.
Hopefully, veteran head coach Mike Carey can continue to lead his group of what he simply calls “girls” to even greater fame this year.
With all due respect to his predecessors, the Clarksburg native has more than proved in his 13th year — and previously — that he is among the greatest coaches in any sport that I’ve worked with in some 70 years of WVU sports reporting.
Carey, who served as head coach of men’s basketball 13 years at Salem International before coming here, has been deserving of a great deal more credit — and money — than he’s likely receiving.
Because women’s basketball is not a revenue-generating sport, it’s being assumed here-in that his annual salary isn’t even close to that million-dollar level head coaches of football and men’s basketball are paid at WVU and elsewhere. And those two sports are struggling for success on the local scoreboards. To me, that’s a truly sad and most unfortunate situation.
But let’s get back to the happy part of this column about Mike Carey and those wonderful women of whom he couldn’t be prouder.
In upsetting Baylor, the Big 12 three-time defending champion, the Mountaineers (26-3, 15-2 Big 12) snapped the Lady Bears’ (25-4, 15-2 Big 12) 35-game Big 12 home winning streak. This tremendous triumph also enabled WVU to jump from No. 11 to No. 7 on Monday in The Associated Press women’s national poll.
Baylor, in losing, dropped from No. 6 to No. 9.
So West Virginia needs only to defeat Kansas tonight at the Coliseum to assure at least a tie for the coveted Big 12 Conference championship. It’s Senior Night, with all five seniors being honored before the 7 p.m. tip-off.
WVU officials obviously will be hoping for the largest turnout of fans of the year. The Mountaineers surely are deserving to match, if not top, the attendance of 8,242 Baylor drew for WVU’s visit Sunday.
Keep in mind, the marvelous Mountaineers had to battle back from a late seven-point deficit to win their biggest game of the school’s two years as a Big 12 competitor.
In addition, this was the fifth nationally-ranked victim of the WVU women to fall within the past two months, and this was the sixth conference contest WVU rallied from behind in the final eight minutes to win.
WVU, which owns just one league title when in the old Atlantic 10 Conference, now has a current nine-game winning streak this year.
There were similar successes like the one at Baylor this season. But none of those could be nearly as sweet, nor as significant to league positioning.
Carey told reporters in Waco, “We always find a way (to win close games). I told the girls I’m very proud of them. This is a very big win for us. Win or lose, we play hard.”
Asya Bussie, who had a team-high 21 points before fouling out with just seconds left, said, “We came in really focused and stayed focused the whole game. We have some goals, and one of those was to beat Baylor...”
Carey said, “Sometimes in your career, you may get one, maybe two, special groups, and this is definitely a special group.
“Everybody needs to enjoy it, including myself.”
I’d like to add that Mike Carey is special, too.