WVU Women Host Hokies In WNIT Semifinals
It’s sort of deja vu all over again for West Virginia’s women’s basketball team as it takes on Virginia Tech in the Final Four of the WNIT at 7 p.m. today at the Coliseum.
It’s the second time this season the two teams have played after having gone a decade without playing their former Big East Conference rival.
“It’s unbelievable,” WVU coach Mike Carey said as his team went through its final preparation for the Hokies on Tuesday. “We had been scrimmaging them every year because we never played them. Now we have them twice in one year.”
And this one is an important one in that a victory would send the Mountaineers to the finals of the WNIT against the winner of the Indiana-South Dakota State game.
While disappointed about having to play in this tournament rather than the NCAAs, which WVU just missed, Carey’s team accepted its fate and built its enthusiasm as the tournament has gone along, the 25-11 Mountaineers never leaving the Coliseum.
“Women’s basketball is crazy,” Carey said. “Every year in the NCAA we have had to go play on someone else’s home floor. I’d like to have some NCAA games on our floor. It’s a big advantage.”
Because the women’s game does not draw like the men, this tournament doesn’t set its sites until it sees who is playing and who is likely to draw the best crowd. It’s likely, if WVU wins, that it will have to travel to Indiana, if the Hoosiers win, as they have been drawing about 5,000 fans per game.
“The first game of the tournament I wasn’t sure if we were locked in,” Carey said. “They said they wanted it, but you never know. Then they became a little more focused. I told them the season can not go any longer than Saturday, that’s the championship game, so they just have to stay focused until then.”
The first meeting this year with Virginia Tech (22-13) was an easy 79-61 WVU victory way back on Nov. 25, 2017, in the Paradise Jam, but Carey doesn’t foresee that reoccurring.
“They have some players who can play. They are playing with a lot of confidence and are playing very hard,” Carey said.
He noted that the Hokies had changed point guards since that first meeting.
“They have someone there now (Chanette Hicks) who can shoot the ball and score,” he said.
Teana Muldrow, the WVU senior who was just named to the Associated Press All-America honorable mention list, had a big game in the first meeting, stringing together a double-double with 23 points and 11 rebounds.
She was joined in double figures by point guard Chania Ray, who had 17 points with five assists, Naomi Davenport, who had 15 points and eight rebounds, Kristina King, who scored 13 with seven rebounds, and Katrina Pardee, who scored 11 but was off on her 3-point shooting, going 0-for-8.
Carey doesn’t believe Muldrow will have as easy a time of it.
“The matchups will be different,” he said. “They won’t switch with their five, like St. John’s did (as Muldrow scored a career-high 33 points Sunday.) Their center is more like Teana. She’ll shoot the 3, take you off the drive and is a little taller. It will be a tough guard for both of them.”
Taylor Emery leads the Hokies with 18.3 points per game, one of three starters averaging in double figures. Regan Magarity leads the rebounding at 9.5 boards per game and is close to a double-double with 13.5 points per game as well. Hicks boasts 12.1 points per game and has a team-best 131 assists on the season.
In the first meeting WVU did a good job on Emery, holding her to just 3-of-11 shooting and seven points.
WVU will be giving away 1,000 “Beat Virginia Tech” signs and 1,000 gold foam fingers. In addition, the first 250 fans will receive a voucher for a free hot dog, chips and 20-ounce drink combo from the concession stands.