WVU’s Journey Begins

MORGANTOWN-The West Virginia University women’s basketball team enters NCAA tournament play today with its highest seeding ever, a No. 2 ranking in the Louisville Regional.

Now, head coach Mike Carey’s squad wants to accomplish another first-win a national championship.

“Without a doubt, we’re the highest seed we’ve ever been since I’ve been here,” said Carey. “But, that doesn’t mean you’re going to win. We’re going to have to go there and play well.”

WVU will take a 29-4 record into today’s 3 p.m. game at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center against No. 15 seed Albany, which has matched the Mountaineers’ record.

“I don’t know anything about Albany, but by midnight tonight (Monday), I’ll know everything about Albany. We have to worry about Albany, then we’ll worry about the second round if we win the first one.”

The West Virginia-Albany winner will meet the winner of today’s 12:30 game pitting No. 7 LSU (19-12) against No. 10 Georgia Tech (20-11). That game will take place on Tuesday, also at Baton Rouge (LSU’s home court) at a time to be announced.

The Mountaineers (16-2 Big 12) haven’t made it past the second round and made an early exit a year ago after dropping a 66-53 decision to Delaware. Today’s game will be televised live on ESPN and ESPN3 with Cara Capuana and Neil Fortner doing the announcing.

“We’re just excited to even have this opportunity again,” senior guard Christal Caldwell told WVUsports.com. “We have done well playing on people’s home floor. We will go in there with a lot of confidence and a chip on our shoulder because we want to beat people on their home floor.”

First, the old gold and blue must get past an Albany squad that captured its third consecutive American East title and will be making its third appearance in the NCAA tournament.

“We are excited for this matchup at a neutral site against West Virginia,” Albany head coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson said. “I have a lot of respect for Mike Carey and his team. They are super-athletic and we will need a good game plan against them.”

No. 15 seed Albany enters tournament play with a 28-4 mark (15-1 in conference play), but still is looking for its first-ever victory.

The Great Danes are led in scoring by American East Player of the Year Shereesha Richards, who is averaging 20.1 points and 9.1 rebounds per game. She will joined in the starting lineup by guards Margarita Richards (6.7 ppg), Sarah Royals (11.4) and Tammy Phillip (7.1) and Megan Craig (12.7) at center.

WVU will counter with a lineup that includes Caldwell (12.2 ppg), junior Linda Stepney (5.0) and sophomore Bria Holmes (15.1) at the guards, junior Averee Fields (7.5) and senior Asya Bussie (13.0 ppg, 7.6 rpg) at center.

Both teams will go to their benches early and often.

Albany’s Abrahamson-Henderson will call on the services of Erin Coughlin, who has hit 55 three-pointers on the year, Imani Tate (4.3 ppg) and Jessica Fequiere (2.5) if the Great Danes run into foul troubles while the Mountaineers will look toward seniors Taylor Palmer (10.1 ppg), Brooke Hampton (3.5) and Jess Harlee (2.9) as well as junior Crystal Leary (3.0), sophomore Darius Faulk (1.6) and freshman Lanay Montgomery (1.8) to add a spark.

“Let’s thank the committee,” said Carey. “For us to get a two seed, that was great. I thought we might be a three seed after losing the Baylor game, but I think he committee saw what we did throughout the course of the year.”

  • The Mountaineers are 1-2 when facing opponents at the Maravich Center. WVU participated in the Basketball Travelers Classic in 2006 and defeated Howard (84-61) before falling to Virginia Tech (60-56). Then, the old gold and blue dropped a 64-25 decision to then-No. 10 LSU.