MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Earlier this week, the West Virginia women’s basketball team (8-5, 1-2 Big 12) picked up their first conference win of the season in a back-and-forth contest against Texas Tech.
After getting off to a 7-2 start to the season, the Mountaineers are just 2-3 in their last five games.
Texas looked as if it was becoming one of the top teams in the country prior to league play, but has dropped each of its last two games to unranked conference opponents.
Here’s five things to watch for between WVU and Texas.
Third quarter woes
West Virginia has struggled in the third quarter of games this season.
It’s been a problem that Carey and the players hadn’t truly found an answer for, or a reason as to why, the last time they met with the media.
Will that change on Saturday? Or will the Longhorns be able to take advantage of adjustments made at halftime when the two teams come out of the locker room?
West Virginia, which struggled in the third quarter in its most recent outing against Texas Tech, was able to respond late in the period, and then with a strong finish for the fourth quarter.
Guards KK Deans, Madisen Smith and JJ Quinerly shined in West Virginia’s win over Texas Tech on Wednesday.
The trio combined for 41 points, and displayed the capabilities of the offense when they get out in transition.
That will likely have to be the case, once again, against the Longhorns.
Texas has one of the top defenses in the Big 12. West Virginia will likely have to win the transition battle in order to pull off a road upset.
WVU is 3-2 when Smith tallies more points than her season average, and is undefeated when Quinerly gets into double figures.
Can Esmery get going?
Esmery Martinez has had an up and down season.
She remains the second-leading scorer on West Virginia’s roster averaging 10.7 points and 8 rebounds per game. However, she has struggled in each of the last two games after missing the Big 12 opener against Iowa State.
While she continues to rebound at a high clip with seven boards in each contest, Martinez averages just 3.5 points in those two games of conference play.
This isn’t a game to be envious of the ball handler — Texas and West Virginia are the two best teams in the Big 12 at forcing turnovers.
The Mountaineers force 21.7 turnovers per game. But the Longhorns are even better, averaging 24.4 turnovers forced per game.
Both teams, offensively, are middle of the road in the conference when it comes to turning it over. But as we know, turnovers lead to run outs, and both of these teams know how to take advantage of an opponent’s miscues.
In fact, West Virginia and Texas each average 20.5 points per game off of turnovers this season.
The Texas Fearsome Foursome
Speaking of scoring, the Longhorns have four players averaging double-figure scoring totals this year.
Junior guard Aliyah Matharu is tied with Deans for the ninth-best scoring average in the conference at 15.2 points per contest.
Senior guard Joanne Allen-Taylor (11.4 ppg) and freshman backcourt mate Rori Harmon (10.9 ppg) are also in the top 15 in the Big 12 in scoring average.
And freshman forward DeYona Gaston, who enters Saturday’s contest averaging an even 10 points per game, is the fourth Longhorns player that’s scoring at a double-digit clip this year.
West Virginia’s defense won’t be able to key in on just one player. There are four key Texas scorers to pay attention to, meaning a tall task awaits the Mountaineers.