Clutch Free Throws Beat Pitt
By Steve Stone for MSNsportsNET.com
January 5, 2010
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – No. 17 West Virginia made five of six free throws during the game’s final 23 seconds to escape with a 63-59 victory against rival Pitt in the Backyard Brawl on Tuesday evening at the WVU Coliseum.
In a hotly contested game, both teams showed off their defensive prowess before going on a scoring spree in the second half. West Virginia, trailing by three points at halftime, outscored Pitt, 42-35, in the final 20 minutes. Junior guard Liz Repella found her stroke in the second half, scoring all 16 of her points as WVU rode her offensive performance to pull out another critical conference victory.
“I thought it was a great game,” WVU coach Mike Carey said. “Pitt came in here very physical. I thought we stepped it up in the second half. Liz in the second half started pulling up for jumpers instead of trying to take it all the way to the rim.”
After fighting back to trim their deficit to 58-55 with 23 seconds left, the Panthers (11-4, 0-2) fouled Vanessa House and sent the Fresno, Calif., native to the free throw line. House made one of two shots, and Pitt’s Jania Sims responded by making both her free throw attempts after she was fouled to make it 57-55.
After the Mountaineers (14-1, 2-0) had trouble inbounding the ball to a guard, forward Madina Ali was fouled in a pressure situation. The Williamsport, Pa., native responded by making both of her attempts, with one miss being nullified because of a lane violation by Pitt’s Shayla Scott.
Pitt stayed relentless, as Sims streaked down the court in just five seconds to cut WVU’s lead to 61-59 with eight seconds remaining. But Repella, entering the game as a 75.5 percent free-throw shooter, canned both her shots to put the contest out of reach.
“I saw us at Iowa and we were behind by about 11. In the second half, we came out and won the game, I have seen that from this team,” Carey added. “We had too many missed foul shots, but I told the players I was proud of them and they didn’t quit and they made the plays when they had to down the stretch. We have to build on this. There’s 14 games left, and this is a great win but we’ve got to move on to DePaul.”
The Panthers made a concerted effort to limit Repella’s shooting opportunities in the first half, effectively taking away her drive to the basket. After halftime, Repella expanded her range and continuously made jumper after jumper, including a shot in the lane with 16:39 remaining that put WVU ahead 28-27. The Steubenville, Ohio, native followed with a 3-pointer that helped the Mountaineers take another lead at 33-32, then hit another long range shot with 12:18 left that gave WVU its largest lead at 43-35.
West Virginia used its defense to create its offense, holding a 17-4 advantage in points off turnovers in a game that was similar in the stat sheet. Both teams team grabbed 39 rebounds, registered six blocks and made 22 field goals. There were also seven lead changes and each team's largest lead was eight.
Point guard Sarah Miles also came through at the end of the game, hitting a key layup with 52 seconds left to make it a two-possession game at 56-50. Miles finished with 11 points and a game-high seven assists.
Sophomore center Natalie Burton finished with four points, but both her baskets late in the contest helped extend West Virginia’s lead. Burton’s fastbreak layup with 7:02 left gave WVU a 47-42 lead, then she scored in the paint with 5:41 left to give the Mountaineers another five-point advantage at 49-44.
“We thought we were going to Asya (Bussie) four or five times in a row and the last time she looked gassed,” Carey mentioned. “We had to get her out and get her rested. We brought in Natalie and she scored on a great step-through. She gave us great minutes. Akeema Richards also came in and hit a three, and Vanessa House gave us energy.”
Korinne Campbell had another solid performance, scoring 15 points and grabbing 13 rebounds as she carried the Mountaineers offensively in the first half.
“Some of the plays Sarah made were key, and Korinne Campbell kept us in the game in the first half," Carey said. "Pitt is a good team. I told our girls after the game, ‘Welcome to the Big East. This is how it is going to be.’”
West Virginia shot 37.3 percent overall, including 6 of 16 from 3-point range. Pitt went 41.5 percent from the field, as well as 40 percent from long distance.
The Panthers held a 24-21 lead at halftime. Sims led Pitt with 13 points, while Campbell paced the Mountaineers with 12 points and eight rebounds. Campbell found herself open for catch-and-shoot jump shots as Pitt made a habit of double-teaming WVU’s perimeter players.
After Sims scored the game’s first six points on three quick baskets, Campbell hit a 3-pointer from the corner with 18:19 remaining to put the Mountaineers on the board. Campbell proceeded to score on a layup, and Miles added a nifty drive-in layup to put WVU on top at 7-6.
Scott’s jumper at the 9:40 mark in the first half gave Pitt the lead at 13-12, and the Panthers went on a 7-0 run before Ali broke the drought with a fastbreak layup. Freshman guard Richards came off the bench to add a key 3-pointer with 3:14 remaining, lessening the deficit to 22-17.
West Virginia limited the Panthers to just 40.7 percent from the field in the first half, and kept several of its own possessions alive with long offensive rebounds, tallying nine altogether. Asya Bussie and Ali were stellar defensively, blocking two shots apiece.
Sims finished with a career-high 28 points for the Panthers, while Brittaney Thomas was their only other double-figure scorer with 10.
The Mountaineers return to action on Saturday, Jan. 9, at 2 p.m. at the WVU Coliseum. The game will be televised by West Virginia PBS.
GAME NOTES: The Mountaineers currently hold a 12-game winning streak, their longest since the 1991-92 season ... the victory is WVU's first over Pitt since winning 56-35 on Feb. 13, 2008 ... Campbell's double-double was her third of the season ... Miles now has 98 assists this season, averaging seven per game ... WVU has now won 12 straight home games dating back to last season ... West Virginia waits only 12 days before playing Pitt again on Sunday, Jan. 17, at 4 p.m. in Pittsburgh.
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