WVU women steady atop Big East

| Sunday, Jan. 9, 2011

After a game against Duquesne in early November, West Virginia women's basketball coach Mike Carey had few nice things to say about his players' performance.

They got out-hustled. Didn't play smart. Didn't execute.

West Virginia won that game.

Two months later, West Virginia is 16-0, ranked No. 6 in the country and one of just two undefeated teams in the Top 25. And with the Big East season under way — the Mountaineers improved to 3-0 with a 72-44 victory against Cincinnati on Saturday — Carey still isn't ready to sing his team's praises just yet.

"We want to stay focused; we know we have a long way to go," he said. "You're never as bad as you think you are, and you're never as good as you think you are. We realize that, and we know that we have to continue to improve."

One area where West Virginia can't do much better is defense, a signature of Carey's teams. The Mountaineers were ranked first in the country in scoring defense entering yesterday's games, limiting opponents to just 46.4 points per game. From 3-point range, they had held opponents to 26.5 percent shooting, second in the conference and 14th in Division I. And they were tops in the Big East and sixth in the country in blocked shots at 6.8 per game.

Being the hunted instead of the hunters has taken some getting used to.

"I feel like we were able to sneak up on people last year, and we were able to make a name for ourselves," senior Medina Ali said of a squad that set a program record with 29 wins and finished behind only Connecticut in the Big East. "Now, they know who we are, so we have to come out with a lot of energy and play 12 times harder. Last year, we made a statement, and this year, we have to live up to the expectations."

The big red circle on West Virginia's calendar is Feb. 8, when they host Connecticut. They also host Pitt three days earlier.

The Panthers are 8-6 and 0-1 in the Big East heading into today's noon game at Louisville (11-5, 2-0). Their three-game winning streak ended Wednesday in a loss at Duquesne. Pitt's success in conference play will hinge on the continued development of their seven freshmen.

"The bench production is the freshmen," coach Agnus Berenato said. "The first six games, we were scoring nine points off the bench, and our shooting was horrific. Now, we're getting 27 points off the bench. The freshmen are playing a vital role."

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