HARTFORD, Conn. – The West Virginia women’s basketball team fell to St. John’s, 59-51, in the second round of the BIG EAST Tournament at the XL Center on Saturday evening.
The Mountaineers (23-9) faced a very different St. John’s team from the one that played in the Coliseum only five days ago. This time it was the Red Storm (21-9) that forced West Virginia to turn the ball over and make costly mistakes.
Yet despite these mistakes, the game remained extremely close right up until the end. After West Virginia started off the second half by erasing a seven point St. John’s lead, Mountaineer true freshman Taylor Palmer
tied the game at 51 with 2:50 left in the game by sinking her 22nd 3-point shot of the season.
From there, West Virginia played its characteristic tough defense but was unable to stop St. John’s, giving up five straight points to the Red Storm. With the score at 56-51 with 33 seconds remaining, the Mountaineers had no choice but to start fouling.
“They wanted it more than we did,” coach Carey said. “We turned the ball over and they were quicker to the ball.”
Sarah Miles led a trio of Mountaineer scorers in double figures, posting 15 points and dishing out four assists on the night. She was followed by Asya Bussie
, who continued to step up on offense with 12 points and seven rebounds, and Liz Repella who added another double-double to her resume with 10 points and 11 rebounds.
It wasn’t enough to overcome the overall team offensive struggles, however. West Virginia shot 39.6 percent (19-of-48) from the field and 30.8 percent (4-of-13) from beyond the arc. Their best shooting accuracy came from the free throw line, where they made 60 percent (9-of-15) of their attempts.
In comparison, St. John’s only shot 34.5 percent (20-of-58) from the field. But they made up for it by sinking 40 percent (4-of-10) from 3-point range and 71.4 percent (15-of-21) from the charity stripe.
If that wasn’t enough, they also outplayed the Mountaineers in other categories as well. They were able to earn 21 of their 59 points from costly West Virginia turnovers. In addition, they also scored 12 second chance points and had great support from their bench players, who combined for 13 points.
“I think it’s very simple, if you don’t get points off turnovers and second chance points; if you look at those two stats, I think it’s the difference in the game,” said Carey.
Carey knew that it would be important for his team to match its intensity to that of St. John’s, and to play solid defense while winning the rebound battle. Unfortunately, the Red Storm came away with the most rebounds, grabbing 38 boards, five more than the Mountaineers. They also came away with the clear advantage in steals, notching ten in comparison to West Virginia’s three.
"We were one step behind and we just didn't finish out the game," Bussie said. "We're definitely going to bounce back. We're a little down right now, but we're going to get back to practice and pick it up."
Junior forward Da’Shena Stevens paced the Red Storm in scoring, with 14 points. She was followed by sophomore guard Shenneika Smith and senior forward Centhya Hart, who posted 13 and 11 points, respectively.
The Mountaineers will find out if they have earned a spot as one of 64 teams in the NCAA Tournament as the NCAA selection show will take place on Monday, March 14 at 7 p.m., live on ESPN.