No. 5 West Virginia (29-4) failed to capture their first conference title in 25 years, dropping a 74-71 decision to No. 7 Baylor (29-4) in the Big 12 Women’s Basketball Championship game.
The Baylor dynasty continues as the title is the fourth in a row dating back to the 2011 season, as well as the fifth in the past six seasons. If you go back even further, you will see the Lady Bears have won six conference titles in the past decade.
Sophomore Bria Holmes turned in a fantastic game for the Mountaineers with 19 points in the first half before fouling out with seconds remaining in the game and finishing with 24 points. Averee Fields and Linda Stepney each added 10 points in the losing effort.
The Lady Bears were led by a balanced with a pair of 19-point performances by Niya Johnson and Odyssey Sims, along with 16 from Nina Davis.
West Virginia and Baylor traded the lead through the second half until four late free throws from Johnson sealed the game for the reigning Big 12 Champions.
The loss to the Lady Bears also keeps the Mountaineers from setting the all-time wins record for a season until at least the first game of the NCAA Tournament. This year’s West Virginia team is tied with the team from the 29-win season from 2010, which made it to the second round of the NCAAs that year.
Even with the Mountaineers’ second loss this calendar year to Baylor, there has been plenty to be excited about with awards and for what’s to come the rest of the year.
Coach Mike Carey won the Big 12 Coach of the Year, the third time the coach was honored with the award. He also won the 2004 and 2010 Big East Coach of the Year.
Senior Asya Bussie and sophomore Bria Holmes were named to the All-Big 12 First Team last week, while senior Jess Harlee and Bussie were named to the Big 12 Defensive Team.
Senior Taylor Palmer also won the Big 12 Sixth Man Award with 10.2 points and 3 rebounds per game coming off the bench this season.
While looking ahead to the NCAA Women’s Tournament, the current bracketology from ESPN’s Charlie Crème pins WVU as a No. 3 seed in the South Bend region, but that will likely remain the same heading into Selection Monday.
If the seeds don’t vary much before next week, West Virginia could wind up playing Texas and Baylor for a fourth time this season in potential Sweet 16 and Final Four matchups.
This is nothing new for the team playing a team on four different occasions as the Mountaineers played Penn State (1-3) four times in 1984 and Marshall (3-1) in 1978.
Despite the setback tonight in the Big 12 Championship Final, Carey and West Virginia still have plenty to accomplish as the all important second season begins on March 22nd.
You can follow Chris on Twitter at @_CBH_ as well as WVU Pros at @WVUPros for more information about West Virginia Mountaineer news.