With the new year, the West Virginia women’s basketball team now prepares for their long trek of a Big 12 season as they will face off against conference opponents 16 times until their final Big 12 game against Iowa State on Mar. 5.
The season will definitely be a long one for a team that wasn’t able to play their final non-conference game against Maryland Eastern Shore on Dec. 29 due to COVID-19 issues in the UMES program. The only conference game the Mountaineers have played came on Sunday when the team fell at No. 14 Iowa State, 88-72.
“First of all, you lose a game, so you lose RPI points, second of all we always schedule a game like that right before conference play because we’ve been off for a while, try to get timing, chemistry and everything back so we lost that game (Maryland Eastern Shore),” explained West Virginia head coach Mike Carey. “And we’ve had some people sick, Kari’s knee is still not practicing… we haven’t had a full squad either as of right now.”
Prior to the UMES game being cancelled due to COVID reasons, West Virginia played in the West Palm Beach Invitational at the beginning of the holiday break and split the two-game slate of games. First, the Mountaineers fell to then-No. 16 South Florida in a game which saw Carey’s squad shoot an ugly 38% from the field. The Mountaineers then turned around the next day and knocked off Michigan State.
“Naturally we were very disappointed in the way we played, we didn’t play well defensively, offensively, nothing against South Florida and they shot the ball extremely well, so we didn’t have the fight that I thought we have. The second game against Michigan State, we got in foul trouble first half, but people came off the bench and played extremely well… we defended well the second game and we shot the ball better,” said Carey.
Carey must now navigate a Big 12 conference slate of games which involves players going down with injuries and COVID-19 continuing to run rampant throughout the nation. Injuries have already begun to plague the team as senior forward Kari Niblack has already been experiencing a knee injury.
“You’ve got to get people that know different positions because they may be out of position so it’s not bad that we didn’t have a lot of people, so they had to play several positions so if that would ever happen in a game, it helps you prepare for that, you’ve done that in practice. Conditioning too, you’ve got to push through it because it may be that way in a game, you may only have eight playing, so you’ve just got to push through it and get mentally tough,” explained Carey.
Carey then went on to talk about how players must be willing to want to get in shape and play more minutes throughout the lengthy season, so they are ready to play big roles when the Big 12 conference slate rolls around.
“I always tell players, you want to play all these minutes and then when you play all these minutes you complain about all the minutes you play, it just doesn’t make sense to me, so you’ve got to be mentally tough, you’ve got to play through it and prepare for anything during the season,” Carey said.
West Virginia will be back in action when Carey’s squad hosts Kansas State inside the Coliseum this Saturday, Jan. 8 at 7 p.m. with televising on Big 12 Now and ESPN+.
Photo by Dale Sparks, All Pro Photography