MORGANTOWN, W.Va – The WVU women’s basketball team is coming off its second-ranked win of the season. The Mountaineers battled in the 73-60 win over then No. 21 Iowa State on Saturday and finished the contest short-handed.
They’ll be in the same situation when they host Kansas for a rematch on Wednesday.
One of WVU’s key players off the bench, junior guard Savannah Samuel, was absent from the sideline with an undisclosed injury. Late in the second half, a pair of starters, junior forward Kylee Blacksten and senior guard Jayla Hemingway sustained lower leg injuries.
“We’re pretty beat up. We are. What I got this morning from our athletic trainer is Savannah is improving but will not be cleared by Wednesday,” head coach Dawn Plitzuweit said. “Kylee and Jayla are both improving, but we don’t know.. probably not the greatest probability at this time.”
Plitzuweit added there is a chance that one of the injured players could see some action against the Jayhawks, but she is anticipating being without all three.
“Does it mean that we change a lot? Maybe there are some ways defensively we alter some things and how we guard potentially, but the reality is we are also how many games into the season? 23? So, ultimately we are who we are,” Plitzuweit said.
All three players are key contributors. Hemingway is third on the team in scoring with 9.5 points per game and she’s the leading rebounder with an average of 5.8 per contest. She was one point shy of notching her fourth double-double of the season when she went down versus the Cyclones.
Blacksten has started all 23 games this season and is averaging 21.6 minutes per contest. At 6’3″, size is her biggest advantage and that’s also the same for Samuel. She’s WVU’s tallest guard at 6’1″.
In the first meeting with the Jayhawks, Hemingway and Blacksten were two of the Mountaineers’ leading scorers. They combined for 25 points in the 77-58 loss. Samuel tied for the team-high in rebounds with six.
“We’re going to have to have an extra amount of energy, excitement, and enthusiasm,” Plitzuweit said “We have to find a way against a very good Kansas team that we had struggles with and being in a situation where we are probably down at least a few players in this game.”
But as Plitzuweit said, this is a great opportunity for some other players to rise to the occasion, including Isis Beh.
She joins fellow forward Blacksten as the tallest member of the team at 6’3″. The redshirt sophomore has seen her minutes increase over the last few games and netted a career-high nine points in 16 minutes of action against ISU.
“It’s been fun getting to watch Isis play. When she scores the bench goes crazy,” fifth-year guard Danni Nichols said. “I thought she has done well scoring around the rim and getting rebounds for us. I think that makes everyone more confident to throw the ball inside and let her do her thing in there.”
Beh and Tavy Diggs are the only other forwards on WVU’s roster who have played significant minutes. If Blacksten can’t go, they will have quite the challenge as they match up with Kansas’ 6’6″ center Tiyana Jackson.
Jackson put up 13 points and 16 rebounds against the Mountaineers in January. She has recorded a double-double in 10 of 12 conference games this season.
West Virginia (15-8, 6-6) and Kansas (16-7, 6-6) met at the Coliseum at 7 p.m. on Wednesday. The game wi be televised on ESPN+.