The Mountaineers, who return all starters and are ranked in the preseason for the first time, quickly opened a 15-3 lead with 12 consecutive points over a five-minute span. Owens hit two three-pointers and added a pair of free throws to lead the push, which largely secured the win by the 14-minute mark. The senior added two more first half threes as WVU opened a 38-25 lead at the break, then drilled a jumper to give West Virginia a permanent 20-plus point edge at 58-37 with 10 minutes left.
That ballooned to as much as 31 in the second half, as the Mountaineers used superior size and quickness to roll to their biggest win in 16 outings. Canisius routinely gave up multiple chances inside and was bullied by WVU's athletic frontcourt. The Griffins turned the ball over four times in their first 10 possessions, all on traveling violations, and never scored more than five consecutive points.
Preseason All-Big East selection Yinka Sanni added 16 points and Chakia Cole scored 10 for the Mountaineers (1-0), who methodically pulled away in the second half. West Virginia forced 27 turnovers and managed a 49-33 rebounding edge. Canisius (0-1) was led by Micayla Drysdale's 13 points. After West Virginia built its 13-point lead at the half, Canisius never got any closer than 11 in opening with a ranked foe for the first time in its 33-year history. It falls to 0-5 all-time against ranked teams and 2-22 versus Big East foes.
West Virginia, off a second round NCAA appearance, returns 364 combined games of starting experience, tops in the nation. Besides all five starters and a school-record seven seniors, All-American Meg Bulger is back after missing last season with a second ACL tear in as many years. The senior did not start, but entered by the 16-minute mark and finished with 15 points, 12 on three-pointers.
The Mountaineers' No. 18 ranking is its first since it was 14th in 1992. It is one of a record seven Big East teams rated. WVU, trying for school-record third NCAA bid in five seasons, has won 33 of its last 34 nonconference games.