By Mickey Furfari
For The Register-Herald
With just one senior on the squad, this obviously was supposed to be a rebuilding year for the West Virginia University women’s basketball team.
But Mike Carey has done an amazing job in his 11th year as the Mountaineers’ head coach. So much so, the Clarksburg native most certainly is deserving of being voted Big East Coach of the Year.
Yes, there are a handful of coaches in the conference whose teams have better records than WVU’s 19-7 overall and 9-4 Big East.
But those mentors have teams with much more experience and talent than Carey has had to work with since last November.
West Virginia owns upset victories over four nationally ranked teams, bringing to 20 under his guidance. The 65-63 win at No. 2/2-ranked Notre Dame was the greatest in the women’s program history.
Making that triumph even more impressive was the fact Natalie Burton, the team’s lone senior, was unable to play in that game.
The win against Notre Dame was in the middle of three consecutive wins over ranked opponents. The other two were against No. 14/12 Louisville 66-50 and No. 21/18 Rutgers 60-50, both at the Coliseum.
The first of the four wins over ranked teams was against No. 25 UCLA 63-54 in the Woodland Holiday Thanksgiving Classic.
Two of WVU’s four league losses also came against ranked teams: at No. 2/2 Connecticut 79-60 and No. 24/20 DePaul 77-63 at home last Saturday.
The Mountaineers, who had built a 14-point first-half lead, melted down the stretch. They hope to bounce back Tuesday night in a conference game at St. John’s.
“We just quit playing (in the second half), against DePaul,” said Carey. “It’s a shame. It was a game we should have won.
“We had too many turnovers and didn’t get back on defense. But you’ve got to give DePaul credit.”
The defeat ended a five-game winning streak.
Carey has won the Big East Coach of the Year twice. This is his 24th year in college coaching, the first 13 as men’s coach at Salem College.
He also should be in contention for West Virginia College Coach of the Year for 2011-12.
After visiting St. John’s, the WVU women closes the regular season with at Cincinnati on Feb. 25 and then hosts Pitt on Feb. 27.