WACO, TEXAS (AP) - West Virginia has what seems like an unusual plan to go against Baylor and 6-foot-8 Brittney Griner.
The Mountaineers intend to attack on offense and go right at Griner when they have the ball. And they plan to stick with their tenacious man-to-man defense, which is sure to create some one-on-one opportunities on offense for Griner, the dominating sophomore so used to being surrounded by multiple defenders.
“We showed our girls several clips of people attacking them and getting layups in transition,” West Virginia coach Mike Carey said. “Let’s not stand around, pass the ball around and let her just sit in the middle and try to block our shots when we go. … If she blocks it, she blocks it. We can’t change our game just because of that.”
It will be a huge challenge for West Virginia (24-9) on Tuesday night when they play the top-seeded Lady Bears in a second-round NCAA tournament game on Baylor’s home court. The Lady Bears are 20-0 at home this season.
Baylor (32-2) is trying to advance to the NCAA round of 16 for the sixth time in eight seasons _ the Lady Bears went the Final Four last season when Griner was a freshman. Senior-filled West Virginia has never gotten past the second round.
Coach Kim Mulkey smiled when Griner was asked about West Virginia’s plan _ and when she answered.
“I’ve kind of gotten used to double teams,” Griner said. “Whatever they throw at me, just roll with it.”
Griner and Asya Bussie, West Virginia’s 6-4 sophomore center, played against each other before in AAU basketball.
“We lost in the championship but it was a good matchup,” said Bussie, who was then asked if she felt like she held her own against Griner. “Yeah, definitely.”
Griner agreed that “it was a good matchup. … It was summer ball. We’ve both improved.”
While Bussie’s team-leading 54 blocks are 100 less than Griner has for Baylor, she said she was excited about the challenge and the chance to prove something.
“But I noticed she was sweating a little when she was answering that question,” Carey said, smiling.
Playing in the Big East Conference, Bussie has already had her indoctrination against talented post players, including former Connecticut standout Tina Charles, the AP women’s basketball player of the year last season.
“When (Bussie) was a freshman and she went against Tina Charles, her first three shots, Tina Charles just blocked,” Carey said. “We were walking out of the building and I said, `Are you hungry Asya?’ She said, `Not really, why?’ I said, `Well, you ate enough basketball tonight you shouldn’t be hungry for a week.’”
In the Big East tournament championship game against UConn last season, Bussie drove on Charles for a basket.
“She gave me a look like, `Yeah, I didn’t eat that time,’” Carey said.
West Virginia won their NCAA opener 79-73 over Houston, a game in which the Mountaineers scored 40 points in the paint, had 26 offensive rebounds and 20 second-chance points. That will be hard to repeat against Baylor.
The Lady Bears rolled to a 66-30 opening-round victory over Prairie View, scoring the first 16 points on the way to a 34-8 halftime lead. Griner, who played a team-high 28 minutes, and Brooklyn Pope each had 17 points.
Mulkey sees similarities in the West Virginia defense and that of Texas A&M, the Big 12 runner-up Baylor has already beaten three times this season.
“When I watched film of West Virginia, that was the first thing I acknowledged, that we were going to see a very well-coached defensive team,” Mulkey said. “I could just tell watching them on film and watching them (Sunday) night defense is very important to their team, and I love that. So many times you see great teams and they don’t play a lick of defense at this level.”
The Mountaineers peaked at No. 6 in the poll, staying there for a month after winning their first 16 games and then being 19-1. They haven’t won consecutive games since.
“They play in a good conference. Their post players are just as good as any post players in the Big 12,” Griner said. “I am just looking forward to the game. They have size in the post and I always love to play against taller posts. It is a good team.”
One that even Carey knows may later question its plans against Griner.
“Don’t get me wrong,” he said. “Go one-on-one with her, you might be saying what the heck where you doing.”
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