NORFOLK, Va. – When the West Virginia University women’s basketball team takes to the court at the Ted Constant Convocation Center on Monday night at 7 p.m. for its second round game against Stanford, it will be facing the No. 2 team in the country for the third time this season.
The Mountaineers (24-9) hold a 1-1 record this year against No. 2 teams, having dropped a 79-60 decision at Connecticut on January 4, and having defeated Notre Dame, 65-63, at the Purcell Pavilion on February 12.
So while West Virginia and Stanford have only met once in program history, a 73-65 win for the Mountaineers back in 1986, Monday’s game and subsequent environment against the Cardinal (32-1) will be nothing new.
“I can go back a month ago when nobody believed that we could beat Notre Dame at Notre Dame in front of a capacity crowd,” said head coach Mike Carey. “Nobody gave us a chance but the people in the locker room. We talked about it before the game, we talked about it at halftime and we talked about it after the game. There’s no doubt in my mind that these players and these coaches believe that we can play with Stanford even though nobody is picking us to win this game but us.”
Overall Stanford holds an all-time record of 66-23 in NCAA Tournament play, including national titles in 1990 and 1992. They’ve advanced to the Final Four 10 times including the past four consecutive years.
Additionally, Stanford holds a 4-3 record against BIG EAST teams during tournament play with five of those seven meetings occurring against Connecticut. The other meetings came against Pitt and St. John’s.
This year, Stanford is led by sisters Nnemkadi and Chiney Ogwumike who average 22.0 and 16.5 points per game, respectively. They also lead the team in rebounding, as Nnemkadi pulls down 10.5 rebounds per game while Chiney averages 10.2 rebounds per game.
If those numbers aren’t impressive enough, sophomore forward Chiney also holds the fourth-highest field goal percentage in the nation as she is 58.8 percent (201-of-342) accurate from the field while senior forward Nnemkadi converts 54.6 percent (268-of-491) from the field.
“Their post players (Nnemkadi and Chiney) run extremely well and we have to be aware of that,” Carey said. “We have to get back; we can’t let them have easy buckets running in transition. They run as well as their guards run and we have to take that away and get them into their half court set.”
Sophomore guard Toni Kokenis rounds out the top three scorers as she averages 9.5 points per game, and has made 34 treys on the season as the team’s second-leading 3-point shooter.
Stanford’s leading 3-point shooter is freshman forward Bonnie Samuelson who’s made 43 threes this season coming off the bench.
“Stanford moves the ball extremely well and they have shooters,” said Carey. “I think they’re going to try to take our post away and try to run on us with their athletic ability.”
The Mountaineers advanced to the second round matchup with Stanford after defeating Texas, 68-55, on Saturday afternoon.
West Virginia’s bench chipped in 34 points during that contest, including a team-leading 18 points from sophomore Taylor Palmer, providing a significant boost for the offense. That, along with stopping Stanford in transition could prove to be the keys to Monday night’s game.
“We have to stop their transition and make them play defense,” Carey said. “I don’t think we can let them just be an offensive team. We have to move the ball, we have to pound it inside, we have to make their players play defense and we have to make it physical as much as we can."
Junior center Asya Bussie leads West Virginia in scoring, with 12.2 points per game. She’s followed by Palmer and redshirt-sophomore Christal Caldwell who are averaging 10.9 and 10.8 points per game, respectively.
Defensively, West Virginia continues to rank nationally in several categories. Its scoring defense (51.3) ranks at seventh best while its defensive field-goal percentage (32.7) is the fourth-lowest nationally.
The Mountaineers also continue to dominate on the boards, holding the 13th best rebounding margin nationally at +8.7.
Redshirt-junior Ayana Dunning leads the team on the glass with 8.4 rebounds per game. She’s followed by Bussie who averages 6.7 rebounds per game and by Caldwell who’s averaging 5.7.
“Stanford has a lot of skilled people and we realize that, but I like our defense against their half court offense,” ended Carey. “We understand that they’re a great team but we also believe that we have a shot at winning this basketball game tomorrow.”
Monday’s game will be televised live on ESPN2 and ESPN3.com with Mark Jones and Mary Murphy. Live stats and audio along with a full recap will also be provided by MSNsportsNET.com.