NCAAW Big East Tournament: WVU vs. Notre Dame

Coming off a very close win to the 4th seeded Georgetown Hoyas the Mountaineers next opponent will be the number one seed Notre Dame Fighting Irish.  These two teams played each other earlier this season with West Virginia beating Notre Dame at home.  Now they are in a neutral site, so can the Mountaineers pull off the upset again?

Taylor Palmer was the top scorer for the Mountaineers against the Hoyas with 11 points.  Palmer also had one rebound and two steals.  She managed to do this all coming off the bench too.  Asya Bussie was the top performer out of the starters, recording 9 points, 13 rebounds, two assists, two steals and 1 block.  Both Bussie and Palmer will have to have huge games if West Virginia hopes to upset Notre Dame. 

Akilah Bethel was another high scorer coming off the bench with 7 points.  Bethel also had three rebounds, one assist, three steals and one block.  She also has to be very careful when they play Notre Dame because she had six turnovers in the game against Georgetown today and the Fighting Irish will definitely look to capitalize on turnovers.

Another factor the Mountaineers have to utilize more if they want to beat the Fighting Irish is the play of the bench.  Against Syracuse the bench scored a combined 26 points while against Georgetown they scored just 19 points.  While Palmer and Bethel played excellent, the entire bench needs to contribute if they want their starters to get significant rest.  The bench also has to be able to slow down Notre Dame and keep the game close. 

The defense played a great game coming away with 10 steals and causing Georgetown to turn the ball over 16 times.  The Mountaineers will need to play like this and then some if they hope want to frustrate the Fighting Irish on offense.  The last time these teams faced off West Virginia had 10 steals and caused Notre Dame to turn the ball over 17 times.  They will have to mimic this performance in order to keep the Fighting Irish off balance.

Of course, the one player the Mountaineers can't allow to run all over them is junior guard Skylar Diggins.  Diggins was recently named Big East Player of the Year and she will prove why she deserves it.  Diggins has been averaging 17.8 points per game and the last time she faced the Mountaineers she dropped 32 points.  West Virginia cannot allow her to have this type of performance again and they will have to play tough defense against her.  Another player the Mountaineers have to lockdown is senior guard Natalie Novosel.  Novosel is averaging 15 ppg and she was able to drop 16 points against the Mountaineers.  If West Virginia can limit these two players then there should be no reason why they can’t upset Notre Dame.

This will be a tough game for both sides as both are coming off wins with the only difference being that Notre Dame had a double bye.  Tipoff is Monday March 5th at 6 PM.      

Prediction: WVU-55  Notre Dame-50 

Player of the Game: Asya Bussie 15 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists

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