Mountaineers Host Pitt

  • By Julie Brown
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  • February 26, 2012 02:40 PM
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MORGANTOWN, W. Va. – The West Virginia University women’s basketball team will play host to Pitt on Monday night at the Coliseum in a 7 p.m. tip.

The contest marks both the final regular-season game and senior night for the Mountaineers (20-8, 10-5 BIG EAST) as lone senior Natalie Burton will be playing in her final game at the Coliseum.

“Just by being here, Natalie has contributed throughout the years,” said head coach Mike Carey. “More than that she’s been a great person to coach. She’s a great student-athlete and she’s brought a lot to the program both on and off the floor. Our players love her and the crowd loves her and she’s been an ambassador. When we go around to the children’s hospital and the grade schools the kids love her and that’s a credit to her. There’s no doubt in my mind she’ll be a success after she leaves West Virginia whether it’s in basketball or in her career.”

Pitt enters Monday night’s contest winless in the BIG EAST, having most recently lost at home to Seton Hall, 63-39. The youngest team in the conference, the Panthers (8-20, 0-15 BIG EAST) only returned one starter from last season and do not have a single senior or junior on the squad, instead playing six sophomores and six freshmen.

Pitt is currently led in scoring by freshman guard Brianna Kiesel, who’s averaging 13.0 points per game. Behind Kiesel, redshirt-sophomore guard Ashlee Anderson averages 11.2 points per game and sophomore guard Marquel Davis rounds out the top three scorers with an average of 8.4 points per game.

Kiesel shoots 33.8 percent (125-of-370) from the field and 71.1 percent (101-142) from the line.

“Pitt is going to play hard; they have nothing to lose,” said Carey. “We’re expected to win this game and they’re not so the pressure is on us a lot more than it is on them. They’ll come down here and throw the ball up and defend and gamble a little bit and probably do some things that they don’t normally do. We just have to stay focused and continue to get better. There’s no doubt in my mind our players will be focused for the game tomorrow.”

The teams met earlier this season at the Petersen Events Center, with West Virginia coming away with the 54-43 win.

Anderson led the Panthers in both scoring and rebounding during that game, with 16 points and eight rebounds. She’s now the second-leading rebounder for Pitt with 5.1 rebounds per game, behind redshirt-sophomore center Leeza Burdgess who leads the team with 7.2 rebounds per game.

The Mountaineers have won four of the last five outings against Pitt, and are 12-7 when facing the Panthers at the Coliseum.

Junior Asya Bussie continues to pace West Virginia in scoring, as she averages 12.1 points per game. Behind Bussie, redshirt-sophomore Christal Caldwell is averaging 12.0 points per game, while sophomore Taylor Palmer averages 11.2 points per game to round out the top three scorers.

In the team’s most recent win against Cincinnati on Saturday afternoon, Caldwell and Bussie co-led the team with 15 points.

Defensively, the Mountaineers continue to dominate on the glass with redshirt-junior Ayana Dunning collecting an average of 8.7 rebounds per game, the fourth-highest average in the BIG EAST. Behind her, Bussie and Caldwell are averaging 6.6 and 6.3 rebounds per game, respectively.

These numbers have allowed West Virginia to out-rebound all but two league opponents this season as only Marquette and St. John’s have been able to win the rebounding battle.

Monday’s game has been designated Fan Appreciation Night and fans can pick up several promotional items including extra foam fingers, team photos and glow sticks while supplies last. Small popcorn and drinks will also be available for just one dollar.

The contest will be broadcast live on CBS Sports Network with Deb Antonelli and Brent Stover. Live stats and a full recap of the game will also be provided by MSNsportsNET.com.