MORGANTOWN, W. Va. – For the West Virginia University women’s basketball team, hosting another ranked team in No. 24 DePaul on Saturday afternoon in a 4 p.m. tip is business as usual.
After all, it marks the fourth consecutive game that the Mountaineers (19-6, 9-3 BIG EAST) will have to play against a ranked opponent.
According to head coach Mike Carey, the fact that the last three team wins have been over then-No. 12 Louisville, then-No. 2 Notre Dame, and No. 18 Rutgers is a bonus, but the games would have been much-needed wins regardless.
“Those teams being ranked makes a difference,” he said. “But we knew coming into this stretch, especially here at home, that we needed to win a bunch of games whether they were ranked or not in order to do what we needed to do. Those teams being ranked makes it that much better and gives us a little bit more clout as far as we’re beating some ranked teams.
“But last year DePaul just beat us up,” he continued. “We were never in the game last year; they went up 20 early and stayed up 20 the rest of the game. I’ve reminded the girls of that and we can’t come out here and let them do that again this year.”
The Blue Demons (19-7, 7-5 BIG EAST) entered the polls at No. 24/20 after defeating Marquette at home, 71-59, and taking a 79-73 win over Villanova in its prior game.
They too, are capable of defeating ranked teams, as earlier this season they earned wins over then-No. 15 Georgetown and then No.-14 Louisville.
DePaul’s high scoring offense is what makes them a threat as they currently have three players averaging in double figures, allowing them to score 74.4 points per game, the third-highest scoring average in the league.
Junior guard Anna Martin is averaging 18.5 points per game, and has converted 42.3 percent (52-of-123) from beyond the arc.
Behind Martin, freshman guard Brittany Hrynko and sophomore forward Jasmine Penny round out the top three scorers with 11.2 and 11.1 points per game, respectively.
Altogether, DePaul averages 8.2 threes per game to lead the league and rank No. 8 nationally. In addition, its 43.4 field goal percentage is good enough to rank as the third-highest average in the league.
West Virginia’s dominance on the boards may also be challenged, as junior forward Katherine Harry leads the Blue Demons with 9.5 rebounds per game in addition to 36 blocked shots on the season.
“DePaul is a little bit of a different type team,” Carey said. “We’re going to have to run with them a little bit more than we have with some of the others.”
West Virginia currently has three players averaging in double figures as well, as junior Asya Bussie leads the way with 12.3 points per game.
She’s followed by sophomore Taylor Palmer who’s averaging 12.0 points per game, and redshirt-sophomore Christal Caldwell who’s averaging 11.7 points per game.
In the Mountaineers’ last game against No. 18 Rutgers, Caldwell led the team with 16 points to continue her streak of posting double-figure scoring numbers. She’s now averaged in double digits in each of the last 13 games.
Additionally, Bussie earned her seventh career double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds against the Scarlet Knights.
Defensively, West Virginia continues to rank fifth nationally in scoring defense (49.8) and third-lowest in field-goal percentage defense (31.4). It’s rebounding margin of 9.9 is the 12th best in the nation.
Redshirt-junior Ayana Dunning leads the way on the boards, as she’s pulling down 8.1 rebounds per game. Behind her, Bussie averages 6.9 rebounds per game and Caldwell averages 6.7.
“The team is buying in right now and when they do that and they’re all on the same page then good things will happen,” said Carey.
Saturday’s game is a Play4Kay game, encouraging fans to wear pink to raise breast cancer awareness. CLICK HERE
for a free printable ticket to the game, courtesy of the Dominion Post.
The game will be broadcast on WVPBS with live stats and a full recap following the game at MSNsportsNET.com.