WVU tries for quality win tonight vs. No. 8 Irish
Published: Monday, February 21, 2011
Updated: Monday, February 21, 2011 22:02
The newly ranked No. 19 West Virginia women's basketball team has struggled to score and play defense at the same time this season.
The Mountaineers (21-6, 7-6 Big East Conference) are coming off a season-best 90-point performance against Pittsburgh. But, they allowed the Panthers to score 79 points – the most of any opponent this season.
"We finally scored over 50, and we haven't given up over 60 for about a year, and then we gave up 80. So, now I have to work on our defense again," said West Virginia head coach Mike Carey. "If we can just put it together, get our offense going with our defense, we'll be a good team."
Carey will need his team to put it together fast, as it hosts No. 8 Notre Dame (22-5, 11-2) tonight at 7 at the WVU Coliseum.
The Irish have lost five games this season, but all were to ranked opponents. The Irish fell to then-No.15 UCLA in double-overtime in November, and three days later lost to then-No. 9 Kentucky by five on the road.
Notre Dame has since fallen to top-ranked Connecticut twice, and once to No. 3 Baylor in Waco, Texas.
"They're a very solid basketball team," Carey said. "They have size. Their guards are not super quick, but they are very strong and physical and show a lot of looks defensively.
"We can compete with them."
The Mountaineers, who were the No. 2 seed in last year's Big East Tournament, have to finish the season undefeated in order to have a shot at the No. 4 seed.
Being a top-four seed in the Big East Tournament comes with a double-bye while being a No. 5 through No. 8 seed comes with a first-round bye.
Entering tonight's game, the Mountaineers are lined up as the No. 8 seed. Even though Carey would like to have that double-bye, he said he doesn't really put much stock into Big East seedings.
"The NCAA's are a lot more important than the Big East," Carey said. "We went to the Big East Championship last year, but we still got beat in the second round."
The Irish enter tonight's game with the fifth-best offensive attack in the nation, scoring 80.1 points per game. West Virginia has scored at least 80 points just five times this season and is averaging just 66.7 points per game.
"They're pretty balanced," Carey said. "All three guards can push the break. I saw some tapes where their guards will just throw you out of the way, so they are really physical."
Notre Dame, who is 17-2 all-time against the Mountaineers, has three players averaging double-figure scoring. Natalie Novosel leads the way, scoring 14. 8 points per game. Skylar Diggins, who scored 15 points in Notre Dame's 74-66 win a year ago, is averaging 14.1 per game, and is the catalyst of the Irish attack.
"Diggins is a very good basketball player and has a green light," Carey said. "She can drive, can post-up and can shoot the three. She has good size and is aggressive."
Six-foot-two forward Devereaux Peters scored 11.2 points and leads the team with 7.1 rebounds.
Despite giving up a season-high 70 points to Pittsburgh on Saturday, West Virginia still has the nation's third-best scoring defense, surrendering just 50.1 points per game.
"We didn't play the defense that we wanted to play (against Pittsburgh)," said senior guard and captain Liz Repella. "We have to pressure them when they're on offense."
Miles back to old self
Senior point guard Sarah Miles is coming off of a nine-assist, one-turnover performance against Pittsburgh Saturday. Carey said it was the first time he has seen the "old Sarah Miles" since suffering a number of injuries prior and during the season.
"She took care of the basketball and took care of the pressure," he said. "She got us into our sets when we needed to get into our sets."
The offensive difference
West Virginia tied a season-high by scoring 90 points in Saturday's win against Pittsburgh. Carey said the difference was that his team was so aggressive on the offensive end.
"Sometimes we're so aggressive on the defensive end, we just come stand around on the offensive end," he said. "Even if we give up some defense, we have to be aggressive on the offensive end."
Consistency is the key
Even though he likes what he saw in Saturday's game, Carey's not about to jump on the team's bandwagon offensively. While four players had scored in double-figures, the Mountaineers had a six-game stretch where it didn't score more than 60 points.
"You're only as good as your last game. You have to be consistent," Carey said.