By Bob Hertzel
Times West Virginian
The West Virginia University women’s basketball team, filled with new-found purpose, travels to Lubbock, Texas, tonight for a crucial 8 o’clock game with the Texas Tech Red Raiders.
If WVU is to win this key game and extend its Big 12 winning streak to three in a row, the Mountaineers are in need of a scoring revival from Taylor Palmer, who has been in a terrible scoring slump.
One of the Mountaineers’ leading scorers over the past few seasons, Palmer has not reached double-figure scoring in four games. She has totaled just 14 points in those four games.
In the last game, a victory over Oklahoma, she was plagued by foul trouble and played only five minutes, taking one shot and not scoring.
After the game, coach Mike Carey assured that her limited playing time had nothing to do with her recent slump.
“Taylor Palmer has won a lot of games for us. She is not in the doghouse,” the coach said.
But saddled with a 13-8 record and a 5-5 mark in the conference, he has to go with the hot hand, and if Palmer doesn’t come on strong early, look for Bria Holmes to get a chance to pick up where she left off in the last game with 17 points.
That is her career high, a mark she also reached in the first game against Texas Tech.
The Mountaineer offense, as always, will be centered around Christal Caldwell, who has picked up the slack with Palmer struggling and scored 20 or more points in the past two games. Against Oklahoma she scored 24 points but took 26 shots in doing it.
Beating Texas Tech on its home court is a tall task.
Tech is tied for third place with Iowa State in the Big 12, possessing a 16-6 record while standing at 6-4 in conference play. WVU could draw even in the conference with the Lady Raiders by winning.
At home, Tech is 11-2, its only losses to league-leading Baylor and Iowa State.
However, while WVU has won two straight over ranked opponents, the Lady Raiders have dropped two consecutive games, falling 90-60 to Baylor on Jan. 30, and suffering a 67-52 loss at Iowa State this past Saturday.
Senior Chynna Brown leads the Lady Raiders in scoring with 11.9 points per game and rebounding with 5.5 boards per game. Brown averages 15.7 points per league contest, the fourth-highest scoring average just in front of WVU’s Caldwell, who averages 15.6 points per Big 12 game. Brown holds the team’s highest field goal percentage (45.2) on 108-of-239 shooting and also the team’s highest 3-point field goal percentage (40) with 28-of-70 threes made this season.
Behind Brown, senior Casey Morris averages 11.6 points per game and 10.8 in league games. Morris has collected the most threes for the Lady Raiders this season with 46 on 35.4 percent shooting. Morris also helps Texas Tech force turnovers as she has recorded a team-leading 47 steals, while Brown and Monique Smalls have grabbed 42 steals each.
Kelsi Baker rounds out the top three scorers with 10.2 points per game and 9.6 points per Big 12 game. Senior Christine Hyde is the Lady Raiders’ second-leading rebounder with 5.4 boards per game and leads the team in free throw shooting, converting 88.2 percent (30-for-34) in Big 12 games, the fourth-highest percentage in league play.
Texas Tech leads the all-time series 1-0 after defeating the Mountaineers 77-73 in overtime at the WVU Coliseum on Jan. 22. The Mountaineers led by as many as 11 points in the first half of that game and held a 38-29 lead at halftime, until Texas Tech came out shooting and went on a 14-3 scoring run. Tied at 69 at the end of regulation, the Lady Raiders used 6-of-8 shooting from the free-throw line and a single field goal to take the final lead.
E-mail Bob Hertzel at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.