WVU Women Roll Over West Liberty After Sluggish Start
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The question put to Mike Carey a day before his West Virginia’s women’s team was about to take the wraps off on what would be their 2018-19 season was a simple one.
“Are you ready?” the veteran coach was asked.
“You’re never ready,” he answered.
Then his team went out and proved it.
Facing West Liberty, a team from the Mountain East Conference that last season finished fourth with a 13-16 record, the best the Mountaineers could do was take a 22-21 lead at the end of the first quarter before their class took hold and they cruised through the second half to a 88-53 victory in the annual Haunted Hoops exhibition game at the WVU Coliseum.
A crowd of 2,089 was on hand.
WVU is making more than just a few adjustments, beginning with getting back its superstar player, Tynice Martin, who missed all of last season with a broken foot suffered when she was working out with Team USA in the summer.
Martin was coming off a magical 2016-17 season in which she was the MVP in the Big 12 Tournament as she scored 32 points when the Mountaineers upset No. 2 Baylor in the tournament final to take home an improbable crown.
Carey had planned his 2017-18 season around her but she never recovered from the injury, needing a second surgery and missing the entire year.
However, she came out and showed she’s ready to pick up where she left off, scoring 15 points in 26 minutes of the contest on 6 of 9 shooting, including hitting her only 3-pointer.
Add to that Naomi Davenport, who debuted with WVU last year and had a big season, averaging 16.1 points and 7.2 rebounds. But Davenport was changing into a four, which moved her to forward.
The change seemed smooth as she had a big night too, scoring 18 points on 7 of 10 shooting.
“Naomi is going to play the four but she has rebounded well because she’s going into the paint,” Carey said. “She has to get used to it. Like other day whoever is closest to the ball at 4 or 5 is supposed to take the ball out but she’s used to bringing it up the court.”
She got used to it all, adding a team leading eight rebounds to her scoring.
Carey isn’t worried about scoring, not with a 1-2 punch like Martin and Katrina Pardee, who averaged 12.3 points as a junior last year while hitting 39.2 percent from 3-point range.
“We can score,” Carey said. “Some people they don’t get a shot a couple of times down the floor then they will get their shot. You can’t play that way. That quick shot or bad shot leads to a fast break at the other end.
“Some nights someone is going to get a lot of shots depending on who they leave open. We can’t get concerned about how many shots we’re getting during the game,” Carey said.
Carey was more concerned with the effort, which he got, and the defense, which clamped down in the second half, holding the Hilltoppers to just 21 second half points, matching their first-quarter total.
“Offense, we got a lot of scorers,” Davenport said. “Our practices are focusing on defense … talking on defense, getting the weak side, communicating with each other, being a unit, a team. We’re going to be a really good team if we play defense.
“Everyone can score. The key is defense.”
It was also a good debut for freshman Kari Niblack, who just missed a double-double with nine points to go with 11 rebounds. The latter total led the Mountaineers.