West Virginia women worn down
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- The West Virginia women's basketball team came here with a boulder on its shoulder, miffed about its seeding and having to play its NCAA first-round game against New Mexico on the Lobos' home court.
The fifth-seeded Mountaineers (25-7) have another obstacle to overcome when they face No. 4 Vanderbilt (24-8) in a Spokane Region second-round game at approximately 9:30 tonight at The Pit.
The 61-60 victory over New Mexico was emotionally exhausting and physically taxing on West Virginia, which had six players log 20 minutes or more. Three Mountaineers -- Chakhia Cole (37 minutes), LaQuita Owens (36) and Ashley Powell (31) -- played almost the entire game.
Meantime, no Vanderbilt player went more than 30 minutes in a 75-47 victory over Montana. The combination of fresh legs and high altitude could give the Commodores a decided advantage, even if they won't say so outright.
"I mean, we're in the NCAA Tournament, so I feel like everyone's going to be up, no matter what," Vanderbilt junior guard Jennifer Risper said. "It doesn't matter if you played one game or you know we had a game like we had the other night. I think they are going to come ready to play just like every single team you play.
"I think it's good, physically, that we didn't have to play 40 minutes and they did. Hopefully, that will be something that to plays to our advantage."
West Virginia coach Mike Carey realizes the road to Spokane, Wash., isn't going to be easy for his Mountaineers.
Since January, Vanderbilt has won 15-of-19 games, with three losses coming against Southeastern Conference champion and Oklahoma City Region No. 1 seed Tennessee and the other to New Orleans Region No. 2 seed Louisiana State.
"We had a tough game, and our girls are a little tired. But we have to refocus," Carey said. "We are playing a very good Vanderbilt basketball team. They concern me in the post, and they have shooters on the perimeter (who) are very selfish and move the ball very well.
"We are definitely going to have our hands full with them."
If the Mountaineers are going to win, they will need a strong performance from 6-foot-2 senior center Olayinka Sanni. The two-time All-Big East first-team selection is averaging 16.2 points and 7.2 rebounds per game.
"I think she is one of the best post players I've seen on film," Vanderbilt coach Melanie Balcomb said. "She is an amazing post player with a lot of great low-post moves. What I love is how she rebounds the basketball and especially her own misses. The determination and drive she goes after the basketball is amazing and, obviously, one of the best we've seen all year. There isn't a lot of post players like her out there.
"It will be a tough matchup for us. Like every team we've played, you can't just guard her with one player. You need to be able to help, and it's going to be a team effort to guard Sanni."
Vanderbilt has just that in junior forward Christina Wirth, who leads the team in scoring at 12.9 points, and 6-4 senior center Liz Sherwood, a two-time recipient of the SEC's Sixth Woman of the Year who averages 11.0 points.
They have had to contend with All-American post players in Tennessee's Candace Parker, who averaged 22.3 points and 9.3 rebounds in three games against the Commodores, and LSU's Sylvia Fowles (18 points, 11 rebounds).
But Sanni has struggled in her past two games, scoring 12 points with only one rebound in a loss to Louisville in the Big East semifinals and scoring eight points with eight rebounds against New Mexico on Saturday.
"It's important for Sanni to play well," Carey said. "I really believe Yinka was prepared to play, emotionally ready to play. I think she just was too hyped at the beginning. The first two times she touched the ball, she spun out of bounds, and then, she picked up two crazy fouls.
"She needs to get more focused, and I think she will. That will be the key for us, for Sanni to play well against their post."
Today's gameNo. 5 West Virginia (25-7) vs. No. 4 Vanderbilt (24-8)
When, where: Approximately 9:30 p.m. · The Pit, Albuquerque, N.M.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.