Tynice Martin leads West Virginia to shocking Big 12 title
Photo by Alexi Bollwerk
In an era dominated by depth and team basketball, the West Virginia Mountaineers were carried to the 2017 Phillips 66 Big 12 Women’s Basketball Championship by a single sophomore.
Tynice Martin scored a tournament high 32 points to lead the Mountaineers past the reigning Big 12 champion Baylor Bears 77-66 at the Chesapeake Energy Arena on Monday.
The Mountaineers ended Baylor’s tournament title streak at six. Martin was named the Most Outstanding Player for setting a record for free throws (12) and points scored in a tournament final – surpassing ex-Baylor star Britney Griner’s 31 points in 2011 and 2013.
“Very few times in 31 years of coaching, something like that, I can ever think of one player took her team on her shoulders and won three games and Tynice Martin did that,” Baylor head coach Kim Mulkey said. “She did it in every game here. She just elevate over people and make shots and kudos to that team because she really did. I’ve seen it one other time where one player just took her team to a championship.”
West Virginia entered the conference tournament with a subpar 8-10 Big 12 record. The Mountaineers defeated the top three seeds (No. 3 Oklahoma, No. 2 Texas and No.1 Baylor) in order to reach the top.
“They were focused,” West Virginia head coach Mike Carey said, “and you could just see it in their body language that, you know – I said in here after the Oklahoma game I had to shut down our shootaround because they were so focused and going hard. We needed some energy for the game.”
“I could tell from the Oklahoma game that we came here to win,” Martin said. “We had to do it for Lanay. I wanted to send Lanay out with a championship, and that’s what we did.”
Lanay Montgomery is the lone active senior of the West Virginia roster. She scored six points and grabbed seven rebounds against Baylor.
Everyone expected the tournament championship to be between Baylor and Texas. Nobody, not even in West Virginia, expected the Mountaineers to pull off the string of upsets.
So much so that the only media members covering West Virginia at the tournament was the student radio station. It wasn’t even the first time for them either.
“This happened to me one other time when we were in the Big East, and I don’t want to mention Big East, but I will,” Carey said. “Everyone thought we were going to come down here to lose. We had no media. I only brought one suit to be honest with you. So I had to keep washing shirts down there because we won the championship game against Connecticut. Isn’t that amazing?”
This championship victory may not change West Virginia’s underdog status. In the NCAA Tournament, every team is playing for the right to lose to undefeated Connecticut Huskies in the Final Four.