WVU’s Niblack Part Of Trio At Core Of WNIT Run
MORGANTOWN, W.Va — If things had gone as anticipated, and they never do whenever Mike Carey’s West Virginia basketball team is concerned, Kari Niblack would have been a role player this season, dipping her freshman toe into the pool that is college basketball.
But as it does every year, injuries and failed appeals stripped his roster bare, and then a suspension of Theresa Ekhelar, his starting 6-foot-6 center, forced Niblack to dive in head first … and she is becoming a star.
As WVU gets ready to face Northwestern at 7 p.m. Wednesday night at the Coliseum in third round of the WNIT, she becomes part of a trifecta of key players with the veterans Tynice Martin and Naomi Davenport.
Only 6-1 in a game where most of the centers tower over her at 6-4 or higher, she has become not only a premier rebounder but a scorer … her only fault being that her enthusiasm sometimes gets the better of her and forces her into far too many fouls.
That means more time on the bench than Carey would prefer, but when she’s on the court she’s a terror.
She has had four or five personal fouls called on her in 19 of her 31 games — fouling out of seven — and in those games she averaged 8.8 points and 5.8 rebounds a game. But in the 12 games in which she didn’t draw four or five fouls she averaged 10.3 points and 8.8 rebounds a game.
In the two games of this WNIT she has compiled a double-double in both with 20 points and 13 rebounds against Rider and 13 points and a career high 16 rebounds against Villanova.
She now has five double-doubles in her freshman year.
“If she stays out of foul trouble she can put up a double-double every game she plays,” Carey said. “She’s a double-double machine.”
What is it that drives her to be such an undersized force on the boards?
“How many players do you see chase balls down the way she does?” Carey asked. “She anticipates rebounds.”
She goes at it so hard, Carey said, that after four minutes against Villanova she was hyperventilating.
“I had to tell her to calm down,” he said.
That desired, that drive pushed to be the named “The Sixth Man of the Year” in the Big 12.
That’s not among freshmen, that’s of all the players who come off the bench for their teams.
“When she’s in there I don’t have to crash the boards,” Davenport noted. ‘That gives me a break. She has learned to move her feet and that is keeping her from getting fouls now. When she learned to move those feet and when to kick the ball out when it comes in to her she’s going to be really good.
“She’s just getting the feel of the Big 12 and she wins ‘Sixth Man of the Year’, that’s crazy.”
WVU brings a 22-10 record into the game against Northwestern, which finished at 9-9 in the Big Ten, lost in the first round of the conference tournament and then beat Dayton, 74-51, and Toledo, 54-47, in the first two rounds of the WNIT.
Sophomore Lindsay Pulliam, an All-Big Ten player, scored 26 against Dayton and 17 against Toledo. She led the Wildcats in scoring and finished fourth in the conference in scoring at 16.2 points a game.