Times West Virginian
The West Virginia University women’s basketball team will face a Big 12 team for the first time on its home court as the Mountaineers take on No. 21/20 Kansas at 7:30 p.m. today.
The Mountaineers (8-4, 1-0) look to bounce back from a 71-68 loss at the hands of Oklahoma on Wednesday, while the Jayhawks (10-2, 1-0) defeated Kansas State, 72-63, at home for its league opener on Jan. 2.
WVU’s loss was a tough one to take as the Mountaineers wasted a 30-point effort by Taylor Palmer and wound up losing the game at the free throw line.
“We got an eight-point lead, but you can’t foul out four people and put them on the line 39 times and you go 13,” said coach Mike Carey. “At end we had people on the bench who fouled out who are our scorers.
“First thing I told the players, if they are going to call it close you got to adjust. We weren’t smart. I’m not blaming the officials. It was our fault.”
Kansas returns four starters and nine letter-winners from last year’s squad that went 21-13 and 8-10 in the Big 12, and went to the NCAA Regionals. KU was chosen by the league head coaches to finish No. 4, just behind WVU and Oklahoma, in the Big 12 Conference preseason poll.
In the Jayhawks’ last outing with Kansas State, KU had five players in double figures behind sophomore guard Natalie Knight’s 17 points on 5-of-11 shooting from the field and 6-of-8 shooting from the free-throw line.
Kansas averages 71.7 points per game as a team, which is the fourth-highest average in the Big 12, while matching WVU in scoring defense, limiting opponents to 58.2 points per game.
As a team, Kansas is accurate from the field, shooting a team field-goal percentage of 45.7 percent, the 19th-highest team field-goal percentage in the nation.
“The point guard is as good as any I’ve seen, and they have an active post player,” Carey said. “They push the ball up and down the floor and are active and athletic.”
Senior forward Carolyn Davis holds the seventh-highest scoring average in the Big 12 as she averages 15.8 points per game, while senior guard Angel Goodrich is the only other KU player to average double-figure numbers with 13.7 points per game.
Davis is accurate from the field, shooting 59.8 percent (76-127), the league’s third-highest field goal percentage. Goodrich is the Jayhawks’ assist leader as she has collected 80 this season, averaging 6.7 assists per game — the third-highest average in the league. Goodrich is also known for her stealing efforts as she leads the league with 3.2 steals per game, collecting 38 total this season.
Knight proves to take care of the ball as she holds a 5.3 assist/turnover ratio with 37 assists to a mere seven turnovers this season, good enough to lead the nation. Junior forward Tania Jackson averages 6.8 rebounds per game, the 11th-highest average in the league, as Kansas’ rebounding leader.
To counter the KU inside game, Carey needs senior Yaya Dunning to play at the top of her game and stay on the floor.
“Yaya played 11 or 12 minutes the other night, and that really hurts us,” Carey said. “I’ve talked to her. We’ve said it nice; we said it not so nice. It comes to a time where she has to want to be on the floor. Yaya can score. Teams have to account for her.”
The Mountaineers are led in scoring by junior guard Taylor Palmer, who is coming off a 30-point performance at Oklahoma on Wednesday. Palmer averages 11.5 points per game and is the Mountaineers’ leading 3-point shooter as she shoots 34.1 percent from the field with 28 threes this season. Behind Palmer, junior guard Christal Caldwell averages 11.4 points per game and is 37 percent accurate from the field.
“We don’t need 30 points from Taylor but we need her to be consistent,” Carey said.
Dunning rounds out the top three scorers for WVU as she averages 10.6 points per game and remains WVU’s rebounding leader at 7.3 boards a game. Sophomore Crystal Leary provides a spark off the bench as the second-leading rebounder with 5.8 rebounds per game to go along with 5.2 points per game.
The last time Kansas and West Virginia played was on Jan. 2, 1994, when KU defeated WVU 84-64 at the Coliseum. WVU trails 2-0 in the all-time series.
Saturday’s game is a United Bank Dollar Night — fans can print out a coupon on the official WVU women’s basketball Facebook page that can be redeemed for $1 admission.