The Times West Virginian

December 18, 2013

WVU women’s basketball eyes 9th straight

By Bob Hertzel
For the Times West Virginian

MORGANTOWN — Call Mike Carey selfish, if you dare, but he has four players averaging in double figures this season, and he wants more.

“I’d like to see more,” he said on the eve of his West Virginia University women’s basketball team going for its ninth consecutive win against Delaware State a 7 p.m. in the Coliseum.

“On my best teams, we had five people averaging in double figures, and this is that type of team.”

Carey’s 8-1 Mountaineers are almost perfectly balanced in scoring except at point guard. Christal Caldwell leads the way at 14.7 points a game; Taylor Palmer averages 13.1 points a game; center Asya Bussie is at 13.0 points a game; Bria Holmes, who goes back into the starting lineup after missing a game and then off the bench due to a concussion, averages 13.4 points a game.

Only Linda Stepney, the point guard, is at 4.2, and her replacement, Brooke Hampton, who is virtually splitting time with her, is at 4.7 – putting them at nearly nine points a game.

“When you have five double-figure scorers you are hard to guard,” Carey pointed out, especially the way the Mountaineers score points.

They can bomb from the outside, Caldwell, Palmer and Hampton being 3-point threats, can score inside with Bussie, who is among the best big players in the Big 12, along with Crystal Leary and Averee Fields, and they like to push the ball and run the floor.

Such a versatile offense gives Carey a lot of options, both in styles of play against a zone or a man, and also in personnel.

If one player isn’t hot, he can sit her down and look elsewhere.

What he would like to do is get Stepney to shoot more often, having played 60 minutes over the past three games and taking just 5 shots.

“She hurt her shooting hand, and since then has not been looking to score,” Carey said. “She can score. She’s a good 3-point shooter.”

Hampton has taken up some of the slack, shooting 15 times in the last three games and hitting 6-of-19 3-point shots.

Delaware State comes in with a 3-5 record and not figuring to offer much opposition, considering it lost recently at home to Coppin State, a team that WVU absolutely routed, 88-56.

The Hornets are also coming off a dreadful defeat at Maryland, being beaten 93-44.

DSU was without leading scorer and starter Tierra Hawkins last game, due to a shoulder injury she incurred in the game against Coppin State. Hawkins averages 23.0 points per game, 9.4 rebounds per game and nine blocked shots this season, leading the team in each respective category.

Hawkins is expected to offer a battle for Bussie in the post.

In the absence of Hawkins, freshman guard Raven Bankston has stepped up to lead the Hornets as she recorded a game-leading 22 points in the last outing against Maryland. Bankston averages 19.4 points per game and leads DSU with eight threes this season.

Senior forward Deanna Harmon rounds out the top three scorers with 12.4 points per game, averages 6.9 rebounds per game and co-leads the Hornets in the steals column with 16.

WVU and DSU will meet for the fourth time in program history on Wednesday. WVU leads the all-time series 2-1 with the Hornets. In the last meeting, the Mountaineers defeated Delaware State 66-31 on Nov. 19, 2010, at the WVU Coliseum.

Children, ages 13 and under, can earn one free youth admission to the game if they bring a completed coloring sheet of Musket to the Blue Gate of the WVU Coliseum. In addition to free admission, the coloring sheet will be entered into a drawing to receive a plush Musket toy and other officially licensed WVU products. Coloring sheets can be found under the promotions tab on WVUsports.com.

Follow Bob Hertzel on Twitter @bhertzel.