By Wendell Barnhouse | firstname.lastname@example.orgBig12Sports.com Correspondent
In its first season in the Big 12 Conference, West Virginia survived travel challenges, injuries and twice facing Brittney Griner, perhaps the greatest player in women's college basketball history.
So when the Mountaineers face Delaware and the nation's second-leading scorer on the Blue Hens' home court, the challenges are familiar. West Virginia (17-13), the No. 11 seed in the Bridgeport Region, takes on No. 6 seed Delaware (30-3) Sunday in Newark, Del.
"It's a tough situation anytime you have to play someone on their home court with their home crowd," Mountaineers coach Mike Carey said. "It's not the best situation you can be in. But we were able to go to Iowa State, which had 12,000 people there, in front of their home crowd, and beat them. We beat Kansas on the road in front of a large crowd.
"We've probably played better away from home than at home. For some reason, this team really gets up for that kind of situation."
Delaware is led by 6-5 senior Elena Delle Donne, who averages 25.3 points, 8.5 rebounds, 2.3 blocks and connects on 49.0 percent of 3-point attempts.
West Virginia guards Taylor Palmer and Christal Caldwell are the perimeter keys to the offense and their production will be key in countering Delle Donne. WVU also likes to work the ball inside to Ayana Dunning, who averages 10.0 points and a team-high 6.1 rebounds per game.
"We try to push the break and get a good shot," Carey said. "If we can't, we'll set it up. If we can't score, we'll try to go in to Dunning. Our guards, we've got a couple shooters. We're like anybody else – when we're hitting our shots, we look pretty good. When we don't, we don't look good."
West Virginia has lost three players to knee injuries, including top reserve Jess Harlee who was hurt in the final regular season game.
"We're excited," Carey said. "It's going to be a great environment. They get great crowd support (at Delaware). That's great. It's great for women's basketball. I'm glad it's sold out."Bridgeport Region
No. 11 West Virginia (17-13) vs. No. 6 Delaware (30-3)
11:15 a.m. Sunday, Newark, Del., ESPN2Coaches:
Mike Carey, West Virginia; Tina Martin, Delaware.Why they're here:
West Virginia was an at-large selection from the Big 12. Delaware won the automatic bid from the Colonial Athletic Association.Scouting the Mountaineers:
West Virginia has lost three players to knee injuries; top reserve Jess Harlee was injured in the regular-season finale. The Mountaineers are second behind Baylor in in the Big 12 3-point percentage defense but have struggled at the free throw line; they're last in the conference, shooting 64 percent. West Virginia leads the Big 12 in steals, averaging over 10 per game. Junior guards Christal Caldwell and Taylor Palmer are terrific scorers from the perimeter while senior center Ayanna Duning is the main inside threat.Scouting the Blue Hens:
Delaware has won a school-record 25 consecutive games and features the nation's second-leading scorer in 6-5 senior Elena Delle Donne. She is a complete player who can score inside and from the perimeter. She averages 25.3 points, 8.5 rebounds, 2.3 blocks and connects on 49.0 percent of 3-point attempts. The Blue Hens rank seventh in the nation with just 12.2 turnovers per game. Seniors Lauren Carra and Kayla Miller along with Trumae Lucas are capable scorers when the opposition focuses its defense on Delle Donne.