Women’s Basketball Opens Big 12 Play


By Katie Kane for WVUsports.com
January 01, 2014 11:55 AM
Senior center Asya Bussie will play in her first Big 12 Conference game after sitting out WVU's inaugural Big 12 season with injury.
Dale Sparks/All-Pro Photography photo
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. The West Virginia women’s basketball team enters its second season in the Big 12 Conference at 8 p.m., on Jan. 2 at Kansas.
 
Last season, WVU finished 9-9 in Big 12 play, tied for fifth place with Oklahoma State. The Mountaineers were road warriors, recording a 5-4 mark away from home in league play.
 
WVU is one of three league teams riding an 11-game win streak into Thursday’s game. The Mountaineers have four players averaging double-figure scoring numbers behind senior center Asya Bussie’s 14.5 points per game. Bussie also leads WVU in rebounding with 7.8 boards per game and blocked shots with 24 this season.
 
Sophomore guard Bria Holmes and senior guard Taylor Palmer average 14.0 and 12.7 points per game, respectively. Senior guard Christal Caldwell rounds out the top four scorers with 12.5 points per game. Holmes, Palmer and Caldwell combine for 58 of WVU’s 73 total 3-pointers this season, led by Palmer with 24 threes of her own.
 
As a team, WVU averages 83.1 points and 45.8 rebounds per game, the third- and fourth-highest averages in the Big 12, respectively.
 
WVU trails 3-1 in the all-time series with Kansas, dating back to Dec. 21, 1992. In the last outing, WVU defeated Kansas, 72-56, in Allen Fieldhouse on Feb. 9, 2013. Senior Ayana Dunning, who is now the color analyst for WVU’s radio, led all players in WVU’s win with 17 points. The returning leading scorer from that last game with Kansas is Caldwell, who had 15 points in that outing. In the first meeting between the teams last season, the Jayhawks took a 60-59 win from WVU on Jan. 5, 2013 in Morgantown. Kansas was ranked No. 21 and seniors Angel Goodrich and Carolyn Davis had 16 and 14 points, respectively. Knight is the leading KU returner from that game as she had eight points.
 
Kansas returns only a pair of starters from last year’s squad that went 20-14 and 8-10 in the Big 12, making its second-consecutive trip to the NCAA Sweet 16. The Jayhawks lost three starters in Goodrich, Monica Engelman and Davis, while returning juniors Chelsea Gardner and Natalie Knight, in addition to five newcomers.
 
Under coach Bonnie Henrickson, the Jayhawks were preseason picked to finish No. 7 in the Big 12 poll. The Jayhawks are currently 7-5 overall, entering their first Big 12 Conference game this week.
 
As a team, the Jayhawks average 70.2 points per game, but allow opponents 67.3 points per game, the most of any league team. KU is just behind West Virginia in the league standings for blocked shots per game with 4.3 as a team, in comparison to WVU’s 4.6 per game.
 
Gardner leads three players averaging scoring numbers in double figures with 17.7 points per game, the fifth-highest scoring average of all Big 12 players, on 62.3 percent (81-130) shooting from the field. Gardner is also the Jayhawks’ leading-rebounder with 8.3 boards per game, the third-highest rebounding average in the league, and the most blocked shots (17).
 
Junior guard Asia Boyd adds 13.8 points per game, while senior guard CeCe Harper chips in 10.0 points per game. Boyd and junior guard Knight combine for 34 of the Jayhawks’ 53 total 3-pointers this season.
 
KU shoots 72.6 percent (188-259) from the free throw line, averaging 15.7 points per game off free throws, led by senior guard Markisha Hawkins’ 92.9 percent (13-14) shooting from the charity stripe.
 
Fans can listen to the game live with Mountaineer Sports Network from IMG online at WVUsports.com and on WRLF-FM 94.3 in Fairmont, with Jeff Culhane and Ayana Dunning on the call. The game will also stream live online on ESPN3.com with Nate Bukaty and Brenda VanLengen.



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