MORGANTOWN, W. Va. – It’s that time of basketball season again - time for both the men’s and women’s basketball teams to head south to Charleston on Wednesday to take part in their installment of the state’s biggest rivalry.
The ninth-ranked West Virginia women’s basketball team will face Marshall first, in a 5:30 p.m. tip at the Charleston Civic Center.
While people around Morgantown may think that the Chesapeake Energy Capital Classic means more to Marshall, the fact remains that the game is just as important to the Mountaineers (17-1).
“We say it’s a big game for Marshall, but it’s also a big game for us,” said coach Mike Carey. “We have to win games. We have to win as many games as we can and hopefully we’ll have an opportunity to get in the NCAA tournament and hopefully get a good seed. So even though it’s a big game for them with us on their schedule, it’s a big game for us too because we can’t afford to have a lapse right now.”
Marshall enters Wednesday’s game with a pair of losses last week, one at Rice (52-39) and one at home to Tulane (68-38).
The Thundering Herd (5-11) are led by senior forward Tynikki Crook, who averages 18.0 points per game. She also leads the team in rebounds (9.9 rpg) and blocked shots (16 overall), and holds a 52.7 (99-of-188) field goal percentage.
“Crook is a big post player that concerns us. She averages about 18 points per game and she also shoots foul shots well, so we don’t want to foul her,” Carey said.
“She’s a nice post player,” added Madina Ali. “She’s really good and is one of their main top scorers so we’re going to have to put a body on her.”
Crook is followed in scoring by junior guard Lateidra Elliot, who averages 10.2 points per game in nine starts. However, Elliot is currently out with injury and will not be able to play on Wednesday night so sophomore guard/forward Veronica Ruiz (8.7 ppg/5.4 rpg), junior guard Alaya Mitchell (6.3 ppg/4.1 rpg), freshman guard Dorina Barret (5.5 ppg/2.3 rpg) and freshman forward Orlandria Williams (3.2 ppg/2.1 rpg) will try to pick up some of the slack. Ruiz and Mitchell have each collected 15 starts, and remain the most experienced players on the team behind Crook.
On the other side of the court, West Virginia comes into the game looking to extend their overall series lead to 34-16. The Mountaineers have won the last five meetings, and are currently 8-1 all-time against Marshall under coach Carey.
Senior co-captains Ali and Liz Repella, who average 14.1 and 14.0 points per game, respectively, lead the Mountaineers. Last Saturday against Syracuse, Ali put up a career-high 32 points and added 10 rebounds for her seventh double-double effort of the season to help lead the Mountaineers to a 70-61 BIG EAST Conference win over the 25th-ranked Orange. She also continues to lead the team in steals (37) and rebounding (7.6 rpg), and is the most accurate from the field as she shoots 57.2 percent (99-of-173).
Repella comes in second on the team in steals (36) and rebounding (5.4 rpg). Asya Bussie, who is currently third in scoring with an average of 7.7 points per game and is on a 12-game streak of recording at least one blocked shot, is expected to start at center. Korinne Campbell and Sarah Miles round out the top five.
“We know we have to go out there and put on a show because we have to prove to ourselves and the state who the better team is,” Ali explained. “We feed off of each other’s energy and Coach always stresses how important this game is. The game is always intense when we play each other. We just have to go all out.”
MSNsportsNET.com will provide live video for the women’s game. The contest will also air statewide on WVPBS with Hoppy Kercheval and Sarah Evans-Moore on the call.