MORGANTOWN, W. Va. – Defense, defense, defense. That will be the main key to keeping an undefeated record alive as the No. 9 ranked West Virginia women’s basketball team travels to Villanova to take on the Wildcats in its first BIG EAST game of the season on Thursday night at 7 p.m.
As long as the defense continues to play strong, the team should have a good chance of adding another win to its record. The Mountaineers (8-0) have held all opponents this season to under 60 points, and to less than 50 percent shooting. Allowing an average of only 48.9 points per game, WVU’s defense has the sixth-lowest defensive average in the nation.
Leading the defense for the Mountaineers has been Madina Ali, Liz Repella and Asya Bussie, three regular starters with a lot of experience. Ali and Bussie currently lead in blocks with 12 and 13, respectively, helping the team gain a third-place ranking within the BIG EAST, while Ali and Repella lead the team in steals, each collecting 19.
This effective defense will be necessary when the Mountaineers take to the court on Thursday night. The Wildcats (5-3) have a very strong offense, and one that seriously threatens from the three-point range. Villanova has recorded 12 3-pointers in three different games this season, and averages 10.7 per game, leading the nation.
“The key to beating a team like this is defense. You can’t let them have any rebounds. Otherwise you’re going to get caught up in the type of game you don’t want to be caught up in,” remarked coach Mike Carey.
“They all shoot the ball really well,” continued Ali. “They’re a very disciplined and fundamentally skilled team. They’re one of those teams where you have to be really careful because they can do so much.”
Leading the Wildcats in scoring this season is junior guard/forward Lindsey Kimmel. Currently, she averages 12.4 points per game and has recorded the most shots from downtown as she has 26 3-pointers this season. Sophomore guard Rachel Roberts also proves to be a dangerous threat, as she has been shooting 56 percent (14-of-25) from beyond the arc, the eighth highest average in the country.
“Villanova runs a great offense to spread you out, and they’re a really hard team to defend,” said Repella. “We’re going to have to focus and be talkative, but we’ve watched film and have really concentrated the past two days on preparing to defend their offense. I think we’ll be ready, and we’re really excited to play.”
The Mountaineer offense will be led by Repella and Ali, who have emerged as the team’s scoring leaders for the second-straight season. Ali leads all players as she averages 15.0 points per game, while Repella averages 13.9. True freshman Taylor Palmer, an emerging 3-point threat of her own, places third on the team in scoring after putting up a career-high 22 points against High Point, 18 of them from beyond the arc.
Bussie and Brooke Hampton will also look to contribute, each having solid performances last week against Elon and High Point. Bussie collected her first double-double of the season against Elon, with 10 points and 11 rebounds, and followed that performance with 14 points and nine rebounds against High Point. As a true freshman, Hampton leads the team in assists with 23, collecting six assists, 14 points and zero turnovers against High Point.
Expected Mountaineer starters are Hampton and Repella at guard, Bussie at center, and Korinne Campbell and Ali at forward.
The game marks the 27th meeting between the two teams, with Villanova holding the series advantage with an 18-8 record. Tipoff at The Pavilion is set for 7 p.m., with live audio being provided by MSN Radio.