MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The West Virginia University women’s basketball team is set to open the 2012-13 season at 7 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 9, as the Mountaineers take on UNC Wilmington at the WVU Coliseum.
“I’m always excited for season to start,” coach Mike Carey says. “It’s hard to believe the season is here already, but it is. We play Friday and turn around again and play on Monday at Boston University. The season is going to come quickly, and we’re excited to get it started. As a coach you’re never ready to get it started because you want to have more practice, but I think we’re ready to go out there and see where we’re at right now.”
WVU returns 80 percent of its scoring, along with five newcomers from a nationally-ranked recruiting class. The Mountaineers’ scoring leader is junior Christal Caldwell, who averaged 10.8 points per game last season and 5.7 rebounds. Fellow classmate Taylor Palmer was the second-leading scorer with 10.6 points per game, and also led the team with 74 3-pointers, the third most by a sophomore in a single season in WVU history. In last season’s home- and season-opener, Palmer led the Mountaineers with a career-high 33 points, including eight 3-pointers.
Rounding out the top three scorers is senior Ayana Dunning, as she averaged 8.3 points per game. Dunning also returns as WVU’s leading rebounder with 8.4 boards per game. The senior co-captain led WVU in rebounding 19 times last season and is this season’s active lone senior with Asya Bussie sidelined due to injury.
“We’re still playing a lot of people, so we’re not there yet with timing and turnovers. We need to take care of the ball a lot better,” Carey says. “On defense I like our intensity. I think we’re playing hard, but taking care of the ball, moving the ball and the timing is just not there yet. We’ll still continue to play a lot of people until we see what our best rotation is.”
UNC Wilmington travels to Morgantown from Wilmington, N.C., for the first-ever meeting between schools. Last season, UNCW finished out the year with a 20-13 overall mark and an 11-7 mark in Colonial Athletic Association play, advancing to the WNIT for the second consecutive season. The Seahawks recorded 20 or more victories in back-to-back seasons for the first time in school history and fell to in-state rival Appalachian State 79-73 in the first round of the WNIT.
UNCW returns seven letterwinners from last year’s squad and three starters, under the direction of Adell Harris, who is in her first season at the helm of the program. UNCW faced UNC Pembroke in an exhibition game on Nov. 3, winning 52-38.
Senior Karneshia Garrett, a preseason All-CAA honorable mention selection, is this season’s returning scoring and rebounding leader, as she averaged 9.8 points per game and 7.5 boards per game in 32 games, including 21 starts. Garett led the Seahawks in scoring in exhibition play with a double-double of 10 points and 11 rebounds.
“They are very athletic,” Carey explains. “They have a forward (Garrett) that rebounds extremely well and is very strong. We’ll have to do a good job keeping her off the boards. They have a couple junior college players that have come in, and they’ve made them a lot better.”
Senior guard Tawanna Lee matches Garrett as the leading scorer as she recorded 9.8 points per game last season in all games played and started, however did not appear in this season’s exhibition game. Senior forward/center Chelsea McGowen was the second-leading scorer with nine points, and the leading rebounder with 12 rebounds in the exhibition win this season. A returning starter, McGowen played in 31 games last season, starting 17, and led the team with a 52.4 (66-126) field goal percentage.
Friday’s season opener against UNC Wilmington is Carey’s Crew Appreciation Night. Members of the Carey’s Crew can purchase select concession items for $1 and can also pick up their official Carey’s Crew t-shirt by showing their membership card. Visit www.wvuwomensbasketball.com to download a Carey’s Crew sign-up form.
A recap of the game, live video and live stats also are available online at www.WVUsports.com. Fans can tune into WAJR-FM to hear the game live with Travis Jones on the call.