When WVU women’s basketball head coach Mike Carey emphasizes his desire to get the ball in the paint, he isn’t just talking about feeding his post players.
Of course, that’s not a bad tactic, considering the Mountaineers have a double-double machine Esmery Martinez (13.8 ppg, 13.2 rpg), gritty Kari Niblack (8.5ppg, 5.3 rpg) and backup centers Blessing Ejiofor and Rochelle Norris patrolling the lane and attacking the basket. Carey, though, wants to get ‘paint touches’ for all of his players.
“The paint touches need to be not only by the posts, but also by the guards. The guards need to get in the paint and make things happen,” Carey explained.
West Virginia’s scoring versatility has been one of its prime strengths so far in compiling its 10-2 record, and Carey doesn’t want to get stagnant and settle for 3-pointers all the time if opponents drop off and clog the middle. That’s why he continues to encourage his guards to drive the ball. Still, he acknowledges that his team, which can score inside and out, is well-positioned to counter most of defensive tactics opponents can throw at it.
“It depends on the other team, and where we feel the weakness is on the other team,” Carey said of his roster and its ability to score from anywhere. “That’s a luxury we have this year. We can score from inside and out.”
Carey was disappointed with his team’s consistency in getting the ball inside in its last two games, so that will continue to be a priority when the Mountaineers host Kansas State on Wednesday night at 7 p.m. at the WVU Coliseum. The video of the game will be streamed on the Big 12 Now channel of ESPN+.
The Wildcats (5-4, 0-2) are a bit of an unknown quantity, as they have not played in a month. Their last contest was a 62-52 loss to Texas on Dec. 18, and since then they have had five games postponed because of COVID protocals.
“Are they bringing everybody?” Carey asked, acknowledging the uncertainty of this season as to who might be available to play on any given day. “We’ll see at game time who is playing and who is dressed. We’ll prepare for everybody and do what we do, and that will allow us to be ready.”
One player Carey expects to see is Kansas State’s Ayoka Lee, who stands “a legit 6-foot-6.” She had a combined 27 points and 25 rebounds in two games against the Mountaineers last year.
“it takes three people to guard her. You have to have ball pressure on the passer to get them back on their heels. You have to front her, and you have to have weak side (help),” he said of the multi-tiered approach. “A lot of people blame the person that’s guarding her (if she scores), but eight times out of 10 it’s not that person’s fault. We’ll front her, and then we need to get the other two to do their jobs.”
* * * * * *
WVU’s almost totally separate practice facilities for its men’s and women’s teams meant that the COVID-19 outbreak on the men’s side didn’t affect the women’s squad. Each team’s practice gym, locker rooms, etc., while being under the same roof, are on opposite sides of the building.
“The only thing we share is the meal room, and they clean all the rooms, so we were not worried about that,” Carey said.
* * * * * *
WVU’s Kysre Gondrezick, who missed the Mountaineers’ win on Saturday over Oklahoma State due to the passing of her father, practiced on Tuesday and will play in Wednesday’s game against K-State.