WVU guard Kirsten Deans drives against the Oklahoma State Cowgirls in the Big 12 Tournament semifinal round in Kansas City, Missouri, on March 13, 2021.

WVU guard Kirsten Deans drives against the Oklahoma State Cowgirls in the Big 12 Tournament semifinal round in Kansas City, Missouri, on March 13, 2021. 

The West Virginia women’s basketball team will commence its NCAA Tournament play as it takes on Lehigh Sunday in the first round of play in the Hemisfair region.

Lehigh (10-5, 7-5 Patriot League) earned an automatic bid to the tournament after beating Holy Cross, Bucknell, and Boston University to win the Patriot League Championship. The Mountain Hawks make an average of 9.8 shots from three point range per game and while shooting 34.3% from behind the arc.

In the Big 12 Tournament, West Virginia (21-6, 13-5 Big 12) defended the three point shot exceptionally well, that will have to continue against Lehigh and its exceptional three point shooting.

Lehigh shares the scoring among a few players, with Frannie Hottinger (14.3), Mary Clougherty (12.1) and Emma Grothaus (11.1)  all averaging double digit scoring. On the glass, Hottinger and Grothaus pace the team with 6.7 rebounds per game. 

For the Mountaineers, Kysre Gondrezick leads the way as she averages 20 points per game. Esmery Martinez and Kirsten Deans are second in scoring with 13.6 points per game.

The Mountaineers hold the rebounding advantage, which could allow Martinez, who is averaging 11.7 rebounds per game, to have a big game rebounding. 

In West Virginia’s loss to Baylor, the Mountaineers struggled to defend the paint, as NaLyssa Smith had her way with the Mountaineers in the post. The Mountain Hawks however, have been outrebounded in their past two outings despite winning.

Lehigh is prone to allowing scorers to catch fire, allowing Holy Cross’ Bronagh Power-Cassidy to score 26 points in the Patriot League Tournament. This bodes well for a unanimous All Big 12 First Team selection in Gondrezick as well as Deans who has been scoring at ease of late.

The winner of this matchup, whether it is the No. 4 seed Mountaineers or No. 13 seed Lehigh, will move on to play either No. 5 Georgia Tech or No. 12 Stephen F. Austin.

The game is set to tipoff at 8:00 p.m. Sunday and will be televised on ESPNU.