MORGANTOWN, W. Va. – The West Virginia women’s basketball team begins regular season play against Loyola, Maryland Friday, Nov. 12, at 7 p.m.
WVU is 7-2 in season opening games under head coach Mike Carey and is 22-15 all-time in season openers, including a 79-42 win over Towson last year. It is the 38th season of women’s basketball at West Virginia University and for the first time ever, the Mountaineers start the year ranked near the top 10 at No. 11.
At home during non-conference play, the Mountaineers are 52-3 all-time under Carey, and are currently 2-1 all-time against teams from the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.
The last time the women’s basketball team faced a MAAC opponent was during the second round of the 2009 Preseason WNIT. During that tournament, the Mountaineers were able to overcome a formidable opponent in Marist, using a late second half scoring frenzy to put themselves ahead 55-50.
One year later, the Mountaineers are preparing to face Loyola in their third-ever test from the MAAC. Projected to finish third this year in the 10-team conference, Loyola will rely heavily on guards Miriam McKenzie, Erica DiClemente, and Katie Sheahin on Friday night as the trio combined to account for nearly 60 percent of Loyola’s offense last season.
However, they will have to overcome a couple of obstacles in order to be dominant on offense. The first obstacle being the Mountaineers’ annually solid defense, which forced 35 turnovers and limited the Fairmont State Falcons to 37 percent shooting from the field during a 99-42 exhibition win last weekend. WVU returns all five starters from a team that forced 660 turnovers and limited opponents to an average of 51.9 points per game in 2010.
Despite these defensive statistics, coach Mike Carey still sees a lot of room for improvement from his team on both sides of the ball.
“When you look at the film, early on we weren’t executing (against Fairmont State). We didn’t do a good job defending so we had to change what we went into the game with. There were times offensively when we were standing around and not moving the ball. There are areas that need work, so it was good that we could show the team film,” he said.
A second obstacle for Loyola exists in the tendency for West Virginia to play extremely well at the Coliseum, marking a very strong home-court advantage. The Mountaineers have won 19-straight games at home dating back to the end of the 2008-09 season, setting the school record for most consecutive wins at the WVU Coliseum. They are also in the midst of an 11-game winning streak in home openers.
“Everyone plays better at home, but last year was special because we were undefeated. We have a lot of confidence, and our shooting percentage is better at home. We can play defense and rebound anywhere. But you just have to execute better at home,” Carey remarked.
The Mountaineers are only one of two teams in the BIG EAST to have the benefit of returning all five starters from last year’s 29-6 squad, the other team being DePaul. Led by senior co-captains Liz Repella and Madina Ali, the starting five for Friday night’s game could also include Korinne Campbell, Asya Bussie and Brooke Hampton, a true freshman making her collegiate debut in place of Sarah Miles, who is recovering from off-season wrist surgery.
Friday night’s game will be the first meeting between the teams. The contest will be televised nationally on ESPN3.com.