By Steve Stone for MSNsportsNET.com
February 1, 2010
WEST VIRGINIA GAME NOTES
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Make no mistake about it – West Virginia University women’s basketball coach Mike Carey isn’t looking for any moral victories when his 11th-ranked Mountaineers play top-ranked Connecticut in Hartford on Tuesday evening.
The contest tips off at 7 p.m. at the XL Center, and will be carried on West Virginia PBS (channel 699 in Morgantown; channel 10 in Charleston/Huntington; channel 203 in Clarksburg/Wheeling/Weirton; and channel 209 in Martinsburg), as well as MSN women’s basketball affiliated stations with play-by-play announcer Travis Jones on the call.
||Asya Bussie will look to neutralize Connecticut's Tina Charles on Tuesday night.
West Virginia, which moved up to No. 11 in the Associated Press Poll this afternoon, is coming off a hard-fought 72-66 victory against Louisville. Connecticut, meanwhile, defeated Pitt 98-56 to continue its season-long streak of winning by a double-digit margin. Its closest victory came against No. 2 Stanford on Dec. 23 in an 80-68 win at Hartford.
UConn has now won 60 straight games after defeating Pitt last Saturday.
Knowing that this will likely be his team’s greatest challenge this season, Carey is not looking for WVU to just make an appearance tomorrow night.
“I told them yesterday, ‘We’re not going up there for a moral victory. We’re going up there to win a basketball game,” Carey said. “If you don’t think we can win, stay here and don’t get on the bus. The ones that do can get on the bus and we can go up there and try to win.’ We’re not going up there to just play; we’re going there to win a basketball game.”
The ninth-year coach responsible for one of the country’s biggest turnarounds this season is also cautious about his team’s approach, knowing that not everything hinges on tomorrow’s performance.
“Our whole season can’t just depend on this game, or any game in the Big East,” Carey added. “You have to win a lot of games in the Big East and you have to win your home games and go even on the road to be in a good situation come tournament time.”
The Mountaineers are certainly positioned well for an NCAA Tournament run, and boast the 10th best unofficial RPI, according to collegerpi.com. However, WVU continues to maintain its focus on the final eight regular-season games before thinking about what the postseason has in store.
Looking toward Connecticut, Carey understands that it will take a near-perfect effort to beat the undefeated Huskies (21-0, 8-0). But what he expects to see right from the opening tip is a hard-working bunch playing aggressively on offense and defense, which is what he has gotten the entire season.
“Our girls always come out and play hard. I expect them to come out and play hard,” Carey mentioned. “Now the key for us is to stay out of foul trouble, and we’re going to have to play a perfect game. We haven’t done that this year, but there’s always a time where we can play a perfect game and they might have an off game. We’re preparing just like we do for any other game and we’ll see what happens.”
Connecticut is led by what many consider to be the nation’s best 1-2 punch in junior forward Maya Moore and 6-foot-4 senior center Tina Charles. Moore is averaging 18.8 points and 7.3 rebounds per game, while Charles adds 17.6 points and nine rebounds per contest. Charles is also shooting nearly 63 percent from the field.
But both All-Americans don’t defeat the opposition by themselves. They have a strong supporting cast in guards Kalana Greene (12.6 ppg, 31 steals), Tiffany Hayes (9.5 ppg, 68 assists) and Caroline Doty (7.9 ppg, 82 assists).
“They’re a total team,” Carey said. “Their only weakness is if you get to their 7, 8, 9 or 10 players. Their top seven is as good as anybody in the country. They can shoot from the perimeter and they’re strong inside with Tina Charles. They’re very athletic, they play hard and they play defense – that’s why they’re No. 1 in the country.”
WVU expects to be better prepared since it faced its first top five team of the season in Ohio State. The Mountaineers are now much crisper defensively, and have had time to adapt to the different zone and man-to-man defenses it has seen.
However, preparing for the Huskies might be another animal. UConn leads the all-time series, 20-1, with WVU’s lone victory coming in the first-ever matchup between both teams in 1982. WVU has stated its case for being one of the country’s best defensive teams, and will most certainly be facing the nation’s best offense on Tuesday night.
“I think we’re better prepared because we’ve gotten better since the Ohio State game,” Carey admitted. “Connecticut is a heck of a lot better than Ohio State too. There’s no doubt about it, Connecticut is the best team in the country. Even though we’ve gotten better, they have gotten better as the year has gone on.”
A key matchup for WVU will be how freshman standout Asya Bussie handles arguably the best low-post player in the country in Charles. Bussie is averaging 11.7 points and 5.8 rebounds per game, while tying for second in the conference with two blocked shots per game.
“I told Asya yesterday, ‘You’re going to have to be big and strong,’” Carey said. “That’s something we haven’t been doing these last two or three games. We haven’t been physical in the paint, and we’re going to see what it takes to be physical in the paint against one of the top players in the country.
“It’s not only her – Maya Moore comes in and posts and they have others players who will post. It’s going to be physical. It’s not just Asya – all our players are going to have to be physical and aggressive on both ends.”