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West Virginia Looks to Extend Win Streak


By Steve Stone for MSNsportsNET.com
January 11, 2010

WEST VIRGINIA GAME NOTES

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The No. 17 West Virginia University women’s basketball team looks to extend its win streak to 14 when it faces conference rival Villanova on Tuesday, Jan. 12, at 7 p.m. at the WVU Coliseum. The game will air on WVPBS with Hoppy Kercheval and Warren Baker on the call.

In last year’s contest against the Wildcats (10-4, 0-2), West Virginia was nipped, 54-52, at the Pavilion. The Mountaineers (15-1, 3-0) held a 10-point halftime advantage before a pair of free throws from former Wildcat Lauren Kurz with five seconds left gave Villanova the victory.

 
  Asya Bussie has not played like a freshman thus far for West Virginia.
All-Pro Photography/Dale Sparks photo

In conference play this season, West Virginia has already defeated two teams in Pitt and DePaul that it lost to twice last year. The Mountaineers have been able to handle their Big East competition because of their tenacious defense, ranking fifth nationally in scoring defense (50.3 points per game) and seventh in field-goal percentage defense (33.6 percent).

However, expect a tremendous contrast in styles when WVU and Villanova match up on Tuesday night. While West Virginia likes to use its athleticsm to its advantage and push the ball, the Wildcats are one of the country’s most methodical teams that like to maximize their time on each offensive possession.

“They’re going to run the shot clock down, and if they get an offensive rebound they’re going to run it down again,” WVU coach Mike Carey said. “They’re not going to run as much as DePaul did, but they’re going to take more time off the clock than DePaul did.

“They’ll take the ball to the corner, stand there and dribble it for 20 seconds and try to make you make a mistake and kick it out. If they are hitting their 3’s, they’re tough to beat. If they’re not hitting them then we have a chance.”

Carey admits that it can be frustrating to play a team like Villanova. The Wildcats force their opponents to stay disciplined defensively, because one small mistake can turn into a back-door cut or slip-screen for an easy two points.

“The good thing is we just got done playing DePaul which runs a lot of stuff at the elbows with picks, and that’s what Villanova does too,” Carey added. “They get a little deeper with that. The returning players understand what’s about to happen. We just have to get in the passing lanes and not let them run their sets. They are going to backdoor us a lot so we have to be aware of that and the slip screens and all that stuff.”

WVU has won its first three conference games by a combined 15 points, including its 64-57 overtime victory against DePaul last Saturday. West Virginia is off to its first 3-0 start in Big East play since the 1996-97 squad started 5-0 in the conference.

One of the team’s unquestioned leaders has been junior point guard Sarah Miles, who is seventh nationally in assist-turnover ratio. The San Antonio native has dished out seven assists in 12 of her 15 games played this season and is sixth in the country with seven assists per game.

Anchoring West Virginia’s interior defense has been freshman center Asya Bussie, who is a primary reason why the Mountaineers are 11th in the country with 6.2 blocked shots per game. Bussie is averaging 12.4 points and 6.2 rebounds, finishing with a game-high 16 points against DePaul.

Madina Ali and junior transfer Korinne Campbell have helped the Mountaineers gain a large rebounding margin this season, outrebounding their opponents by almost nine boards per game. Campbell, whose free throw against DePaul sent the game into overtime, is pulling down nearly eight rebounds per game as a forward, while Ali is averaging 7.1 rebounds in just over 23 minutes of action.

West Virginia concludes its three-game conference homestand against a Villanova team that is coming off double-digit losses at Providence (52-38) and No. 3 Notre Dame (81-46). The Wildcats end their three-game road swing against WVU.

Leading Villanova is 6-foot-2 redshirt freshman forward Laura Sweeney, who averages a team-best 11.3 points and 5.7 rebounds. Senior guard Maria Getty finished with nine points against WVU last year and is Villanova’s other double-digit scorer with 10.2 points per game.

West Virginia’s nationally-ranked defense will look to exploit a Villanova squad that has had trouble scoring this season. The Wildcats are averaging just 52.4 points per game, with a season-high of 67 against San Francisco on Dec. 28. Villanova has shown plenty of grit defensively, giving up only 50.1 points.

But for what Villanova might lack on the offensive end, it can make up for defensively, boasting the nation's third-best scoring defense.

“(Villanova coach) Harry Perretta is a good friend of mine, but when it comes down to playing him I can’t stand him,” Carey said with a laugh. “We are good friends, but that’s their style. They’ve been very successful with their style and it’s given us fits. It’s totally against our style, and the key for us is to be patient defensively. We can’t start lunging or trying to go for steals because if you overplay too much, they’ll backdoor you every possession.”

WVU's current 13-game stretch is its longest since winning 22 in a row during the 1991-92 season.

West Virginia also earned a No. 18 ranking in today’s Associated Press poll, its highest spot in the poll since being No. 17 in the final 2008 rankings prior to entering the NCAA Tournament.

Tuesday’s game will be broadcast on MSN women’s basketball affiliated stations with play-by-play announcer Travis Jones on the call. A webcast and live stats of the contest can be viewed at www.MSNsportsNET.com.




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