By Bob Hertzel
Times West Virginian
West Virginia’s women’s basketball team takes a break away from its Big East schedule tonight when it travels to the Charleston Civic Center to face the Marshall women, and if they think they are going to have an easy time of it after crushing the Thundering Herd last year, they can forget it.
Nothing is easy for the Mountaineers this year.
Oh, it’s going to be hard for Coach Mike Carey to convince his ladies that a team they defeated 78-21 last year will be competitive, but they made like George Steinbrenner revamping the New York Yankees with free agents in the off-season and put together a team that this year is 12-4.
West Virginia is 13-5.
“If you look at their roster they brought in seven or eight junior college players, so it will be misleading after last year’s game. Last year’s game wasn’t much of a game because they had people hurt and not playing. They’re very athletic, they’ll play 10 or 11 people and they press a lot. It comes down to the same things it’s come down to all year, taking care of the basketball, getting good looks at the rim and defending,” Carey said Monday.
West Virginia comes into the game after a disappointing defeat at Providence, a defeat that was unexpected and that came about not because Providence beat them up but because they beat themselves.
And Marshall will try to follow the same formula.
“They have good quickness. You look at our five losses and Connecticut is the only one that really beat us, in my opinion. We beat ourselves turning it over,” Carey said. “There are a lot of opportunities where we don’t even get a look at the rim, we just turn it over. When you turn it over in the press it’s a layup on the other side.”
Then, when WVU was on defense, it was more of the same.
“Instead of taking charges we were reaching and giving up 3-point plays. I think we gave up three, 3-point drives to the rim in the Providence game and we end up getting beat by three.”
And that is how Marshall will approach this game.
“They have the guards that penetrate. Their strength is penetration. It’s not out there shooting 3s. They’re not real big so they’ll change up on the zone man and that type of stuff and our guards are going to have to handle the pressure. If they don’t handle the pressure, it’s going to be a tough game for us. If they do handle the pressure, we’ll be OK.”
Handling the pressure has been a sore point all season for WVU.
“I just don’t understand it,” Carey admitted. “We go against the guys in here and we put six guys on us and we don’t panic half as much in practice as we do during a game. It’s just a matter of taking care of the basketball and the guards having confidence to make a play when they’re one-on-one. We stand there and wait for the trap to come when we’re one-on-one instead of making a play. Our guards have to start making plays and being very aggressive. That’s the difference right now.”
WVU will try to take advantage of its strength, which is size with 6-4 Asya Bussie and 6-3 Yaya Dunning inside.
“Asya Bussie played extremely hard against Providence. We just have to get other people to be consistent and take care of the basketball. Bussie and Dunning are hard to guard, but we’re not getting the ball down into them because they’re pressing us and we’re turning it over. We have to do a better job on the press no matter who we play,” Carey said.
It would help if the Mountaineers could get their best shooter, Taylor Palmer, out of a shooting slump that has seen her shooting percentage fall below 30 percent since Big East play started. She showed some signs at Providence, hitting four baskets.
“She (Taylor Palmer) had some great looks at Providence,” Carey said. “Christal Caldwell had some great looks. They’re going to get those because of Asya and Yaya. They had some wide open looks and just none of them went in. None of them were bad shots. We encourage them to continue to take them and hopefully we’ll start hitting those. You know it’s tough when you lose by three and you turn it over.
“For us to be the team we need to be, we need to have balanced scoring from the perimeter and from the inside. Make no doubt about it, when the game is on the line or we need a bucket, we’re going to go in the paint. We’re not going to stand outside and shoot 3s. Our shooters have a green light.”
The West Virginia men take on the Marshall men at the Civic Center on Wednesday night.
Email Bob Hertzel at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @bhertzel.