WVU Offense Struggles in Loss

By Julie Brown for WVUsports.com
February 22, 2011 10:57 PM
MORGANTOWN, W. Va. – No. 19 West Virginia’s offensive efforts fell short as No. 8 Notre Dame handed the team a 72-60 loss Tuesday evening at the Coliseum.

By the end of the game, the scoring results closely resembled those from Saturday afternoon’s men’s contest between then-No. 8 Notre Dame and West Virginia. Yet this time, it was Notre Dame that hit all the shots when it counted, and played aggressive and physical when it mattered the most.

With both teams playing their characteristic physical style of play, it was inevitable that foul trouble would play a factor early. The Mountaineers (21-7, 7-7 BIG EAST) lost their second leading scorer, Madina Ali, only four minutes into the game as she was forced to head to the bench with two fouls. With Ali out, the team struggled to put points on the board, shooting only 33.3 percent (9-of-27) from the field and going 0-for-4 from beyond the arc. In fact, West Virginia’s best first-half scoring percentage came from the foul line, where they shot 77.8 percent (7-of-9).

“For the most part I thought we played hard,” coach Carey said. “Madina (Ali) is our best rebounder, our most physical person in the paint. She sets the best screens and she runs the floor on the break better than anyone we have. So it really affects us a lot when she’s not in there. The fouls are because she gets so psyched and revved up, but we have to be a little smarter. She brings energy, no doubt.”

Notre Dame took advantage of West Virginia’s struggling offense, posting 38 points by halftime to take a 13 point lead into the locker room. The Fighting Irish (23-5, 12-2 BIG EAST) would not relinquish the lead for the remainder of the game, allowing the Mountaineers to come no closer than nine points.

“Their guards are physical and they cut hard,” said Carey. “They’ll push you left and go right or push you right and go left. That’s how they play and they’re good at it. When they drive a shoulder they drive the ball in and we were kicking the ball out. The first half I thought we got them in foul trouble, but we let their guards drive us and that’s something we can’t do.”

Despite the score, the teams’ statistics told a different story. While Notre Dame outrebounded the Mountaineers, 40-31, and outscored them in the paint, 48-34, West Virginia still won important statistical battles of their own. For example, they notched a season-high 16 steals as compared to Notre Dame’s five, and they forced the Fighting Irish to give up a season-high 30 turnovers while only giving up 23 of their own. In addition, they scored 11 bench points as opposed to Notre Dame’s five, and remained nearly even with points off of turnovers, posting only three less than their opponent, with 22.

Sarah Miles led the Mountaineer scoring efforts, posting 16 points, grabbing four boards and dishing out five assists in the loss. She was followed by Ali, who scored 10 second-half points to tally 12 on the night. Liz Repella came in third, putting up eight points while taking down six rebounds.

“It’s my job to create and my wings’ job to score and my posts’ job to score and for me to create for everyone else,” said Miles. “But if it’s a situation like this, and someone needs to step up and score, as a senior I will do that.”

The Fighting Irish saw four players average in the double figures. Junior guard Natalie Novosel paced the team with 22 points and seven rebounds. She was followed by senior forward Devereaux Peters who posted 16 points, while senior forward Becca Bruszewski and sophomore guard Skylar Diggins each scored 10.

“I told the team we can’t have a losing record in the BIG EAST,” Carey ended. “You have to at least be .500 in the BIG EAST. We are playing a Rutgers game that we beat twice last year and they have a lot of the same players and we have every player. So we have to go up there and play. We have St. John’s for a quick turnaround on Monday. I also told the seniors that Monday is the last game they will ever play on this floor so hopefully that will motivate them.”

The Mountaineers return to action on Saturday, Feb. 26 when they travel to Rutgers to take on the Scarlet Knights in a 2 p.m. contest.

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