WVU Women Open Friday

  • By Julie Brown
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  • November 10, 2011 03:58 PM
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MORGANTOWN, W. Va. – The West Virginia University women’s basketball team is set to open its 39th season at the Coliseum on Friday evening, playing host to Youngstown State in a 6:30 p.m. tip.

The start of a new season almost always brings a few nervous moments with it. For head coach Mike Carey and his young squad, these nervous moments are caused by the overall youth of this year’s team and the loss of five experienced senior players and the leadership they brought with them.

“This is going to be a little bit different,” said Carey. “This is the first year that we’ve had so many newcomers for a while. Playing in an exhibition game and playing in a scrimmage doesn’t count, but this game counts on your record. So you’re always a little nervous.”

The Mountaineers will be going up against a Youngstown State team that finished in ninth place with a 4-14 record in the Horizon League standings at the end of the 2010-11 season.

But the Penguins still feature some strong players under second-year coach Bob Boldon, including junior forward Brandi Brown, who was recently named the Horizon League’s Preseason Player of the Year after averaging 19.9 points and 9.2 rebounds per game last season. She was one of only 10 players in the country to rank in the top 50 nationally in both scoring and rebounding.

The Penguins also return senior guard Kenya Middlebrooks and sophomore guard Liz Hornberger, both of whom ranked among the top 10 in 3-point shooting percentage last year during league play.

“Youngstown State has three seniors and a number of starters back,” Carey explained. “They have a young lady who sat out last year who was a two-year starter for them before that, so they have a lot of veterans.”

For Friday, Carey plans to start the same lineup as he used against Wheeling Jesuit in last week’s exhibition game.

The starting five will comprise of sophomores Brooke Hampton and Taylor Palmer at guard, junior Asya Bussie at center, and junior Ayana Dunning and sophomore Jess Harlee at forward.

“We’re going to go with Dunning and Bussie in the post along with our guards,” Carey said. “Offensively, they are veterans and we’re a lot stronger offensively in the half-court set with that group in there. We’ll go smaller sometimes and we may be forced to go smaller a little bit more than we want to in the Youngstown State game.”

Bussie returns as the current team leader in rebounds and scoring from last year’s squad that went 24-10 and made its fifth trip in eight seasons to the NCAA Tournament. With a total of 161 rebounds, 54 blocks and 32 steals on top of an 8.2 points per game average, she will be looked to as a leader on the court.

Things will be a little bit different defensively this year for West Virginia, with both Dunning and Bussie on the court at the same time.
“They have to get used to playing together,” said Carey. “They always used to go in for each other, so they’ve never really played together. So now we’ll do certain things defensively that we haven’t been doing in the past. Bussie is really the one who’s going to have to do a lot of adjusting because she’s going to be at the perimeter a lot more than the post.”

At guard, Carey will be returning an experienced Hampton as she started nine games last season at the point as a true freshman. She led the team last year with an assist/turnover ratio of 2.4 while recording 65 assists, a number good enough for third on the team. She also only committed 27 turnovers, and played in 15 games where she didn't commit any.

This year, though, she will be called upon more often to take shots from the perimeter.

“We need our point guard this year to score some because we don’t have a lot of firepower from the perimeter right now,” explained Carey. “Brooke’s one of our best shooters so she has to be very aggressive and when she gets a look on the perimeter we want her to shoot. That’s something we’ve really been stressing.”

Friday’s game is the first of a doubleheader at the Coliseum as the WVU men’s basketball team will tipoff with Oral Roberts at 9 p.m. Both games will broadcast live on ESPN3.