Women's Basketball

WVU women face tall task against Baylor

MORGANTOWN — Looking at the roster for the No. 3 Baylor women’s basketball team, the size of the bigs leaps off the page, which has been a mantra for the Bears under head coach Kim Mulkey.

It’s definitely something WVU head coach Mike Carey is concerned about heading into Jan. 28’s top 25 match-up, at the WVU Coliseum.

When asked about the biggest challenge his team will face today, Carey said, “Six-foot-7, 6-foot-5, inside — it’s their height. They’re really big. I watched them the other night against Texas, Texas is big, and they couldn’t even get a shot off in the paint.”

The 6-foot-7 threat that is causing Carey’s concern is junior Kalani Brown. She averages 21.4 points and nearly 10 rebounds (9.4) per game, but her presence in the post defensively is what makes her a dominant star.

Next to Brown is 6-5 Lauren Cox, who is second on the team in scoring, with 15.2 points per game, and pulling down 9.9 rebounds.

The length of the Bears’ frontcourt cannot be matched by the Mountaineers, so post defense will be key.

“It is what it is, against their 6-foot-7, we’ll have 6-foot-1, and against their 6-foot-5, we’ll have 6-foot-1 again,” Carey said. “And then we’ll come off the bench with 5-foot-10, so it is what it is.”

Carey hopes that center Theresa Ekhelar can be a difference maker for WVU. At 6-foot-6, she would matchup with the Bears’ bigs with her size, but Carey wants to see more from Ekhelar before he can guarantee anymore playing time.

“Texas Tech had height, but we weren’t in the right position, we weren’t blocking out and we weren’t doing what we needed to do,” he said. “Yeah, I’d like for it to be a lot more playing time (for Ekhelar), but you have to be in the right position and you have to be able to block out, and if don’t do that, then you can’t be in there.”

Against the Red Raiders last Wednesday, the Mountaineers got over their offensive woes, shooting 47 percent from the field and having four finish in double-figures, led by Katrina Pardee’s 23 points.

That hot shooting will need to continue, especially from the perimeter.

“We just don’t matchup well with them right now, so that means we’re going to have to knock down outside shots,” Carey said. “We’re going to have to defend really well, we’re going to have to defend really well, and we’re going to have to stay out of foul trouble with our post players. There’s a lot of things that are going to need to occur.”

WVU hasn’t beaten Baylor at the Coliseum, going 0-5 since the Mountaineers joined the Big 12, in 2012.

However, in the last meeting — last season’s Big 12 tournament championship — WVU pulled of a 77–66 upset, in Oklahoma City.

Today’s game will also be “I Belong Day,” a celebration of diversity and inclusion. Gov. Jim Justice recognized the team’s efforts and issued a proclamation declaring “I Belong” Day in West Virginia. More than 40 community and student organizations will be set up for a pregame fair on the concourse with activities and giveaways.

Fans can use the promo code “I Belong” to purchase $2 tickets at wvugame.com. Tickets can also be purchased by calling 1-800-WVU-GAME or at the Mountaineer Ticket Office located at the Gold Gate. Students gain free admission with a valid WVU student ID. Due to the celebration, gates will open at 1:30 p.m.

“It’s a great event,” Carey said. “It means a lot of things to a lot of different people. We’re very proud to be able to host something like that and get that going at West Virginia University. Our staff came up with that idea and everybody’s been great getting involved with all the organizations and groups. It’s been fantastic.”