West Virginia and Texas will see plenty of each other starting next season, but the Mountaineers are about to get an early look at their new league.
Eighth-seeded West Virginia is moving to the Big 12 next season, and would like to make a statement in its first-round matchup Saturday in Norfolk, Va., against ninth-seeded and future conference rival Texas.The Mountaineers (23-9) were blown out 73-45 by No. 3 Notre Dame in the semifinals of the Big East Tournament, and the Longhorns (18-13) got drilled 81-58 by Texas Tech in the first round of the Big 12 tournament."We know we didn't end our season in the Big East the way we wanted to, so we want to start off going into the Big 12 with a bang," center Ayana Dunning said. The team is in the field for the fifth time in six years, and will lose only one lightly used senior after this season.The game is a homecoming for West Virginia freshmen Linda Stepney and Crystal Leary, both Norfolk natives, and a return to the East for Texas coach Gail Goestenkors, formerly at Duke.West Virginia has used a twin towers approach for the last 12 games, with coach Mike Carey starting 6-foot-4 Asya Bussie and Dunning, who is 6-3, together. The pair complement each other offensively, and have helped the Mountaineers outrebound opponents by nearly nine per game."I think they work harder in that low post -- ducking in, moving without the ball -- than any two post players I've seen," Goestenkors said.Bussie averages 12.2 points, Christal Caldwell 11.1 and Dunning 8.2.The Longhorns are led by 5-10 sophomore guard Chassidy Fussell, who averages 16.5 points, and senior guards Ashleigh Fontenette and Yvonne Anderson, who both average 11.9 points.Slowing Texas' fast break will be challenging, West Virginia coach Mike Carey said."Our girls are going to have be aggressive and we're going to have to get weak-side help, stop the ball in transition," he said. "That's going to be big for us, but that's been big for us all year. We've had the same problem all year, taking care of that."Anderson, in danger of being in the first class at Texas not to win a game in the tournament since the Longhorns went from 1998-2001 without winning, hopes to fix that on Saturday."What's going in our memory is those games before (the Texas Tech game) when we knew exactly what we were doing and trusted each other," she said. "We've been working hard, and I think that's what we're going to bring when we play West Virginia."