WACO, TEXAS – Led by senior Liz Repella’s season-high 26 points, the West Virginia women’s basketball team advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament, upsetting Houston, 79-73, at the Ferrell Center on Sunday evening.
Repella’s 26-point performance marks only the eighth time in school history a WVU women’s basketball player has posted a 20-point game in NCAA play. Previously, the most points scored in an NCAA Tournament game was 27, posted by Rosemary Kosiorek in 1992.
With this performance, she also passed Olayinka Sanni (2005-08) for seventh place on West Virginia’s all-time scoring list, tallying 1,612 career points.
Repella wasn’t the only West Virginia player to put her name in the record books, however. With 13 points and a career-high 15 rebounds, senior Madina Ali became only the fourth WVU women’s basketball player to post a double-double in tournament play. Other Mountaineers to have done so include Donna Abbott, Chakhia Cole and Repella.
In addition, Ali’s double-double marked the 11th of her career.
“I think Madina is as versatile and as athletic of a kid, with that kind of size, that we have faced all year,” said Houston coach Todd Buchanan. “She is phenomenal. And Liz could not miss. I give her credit. She was phenomenal and a lot of that was off of second and third possessions.”
Sophomore Asya Bussie
rounded out the top three in scoring with 13 points on the night.
West Virginia was up by ten with 5:43 remaining in the game, but Houston went on a 9-2 run to come within three with 3:26 left to go. Repella then banked a 3-point shot to give the Mountaineers breathing room, and while Houston would threaten by coming to within four points of the lead two more times before the game’s end, West Virginia ultimately pulled away with the win.
“Our girls played hard,” said coach Mike Carey. “Even during that stretch of bad play during the season, our girls practiced hard, had great attitudes and worked hard in practice. In games we just seemed like we didn’t hit big shots or get the stops we needed like we did the year before. Never at one time did our players not work hard for us. You have got to give them a lot of credit for that, because after that one stretch that could have folded a little bit and lost confidence, but they didn’t.”
Carey knew coming into the contest that Houston had struggled with turnovers all season. Because of this, the Mountaineers were aggressive on both offense and defense, stealing the ball nine times and forcing 16 turnovers from which they scored 18 points.
In fact, West Virginia won nearly every category, posting 40 points in the paint to Houston’s 28, gaining 20 second chance points to Houston’s 11, and pulling down a school record 52 boards in the NCAA Tournament. Houston pulled down 36.
“Rebounding in general is a major part of our team, and making second-chance shots,” said Korinne Campbell. “We don’t shoot very well from the outside, so getting those second chance opportunities is always big for us. It definitely pumped our team up, because they were getting back into the game.”
The only area in which the Mountaineers weren’t dominant was shooting, with 37.7 percent (26-of-69) from the field, 35.7 percent (5-of-14) from beyond the arc, and 68.8 percent (22-of-32) from the free throw line.
Houston didn’t hold a large advantage in these categories, however. In comparison, they shot (22-of-56) from the field, 41.2 percent (7-of-17) from 3-point range and 75.9 percent (22-of-29) from the charity stripe.
In holding Houston to these scoring statistics, the Mountaineers have now held 30 opponents this year to under 50 percent shooting.
Guard Brittney Scott led the Cougars in scoring with 24 points. She was followed by forwards Courtney Taylor and Lesslee Mason, who each scored 17.
The Mountaineers return to action on Tuesday night, where they will face the winner of Sunday night’s second game between No. 1-seed Baylor and No. 16-seed Prairie View A&M. Tipoff is set for 8:30 p.m. CDT/9:30 p.m. EST, with ESPN2 providing a broadcast of the game and MSN radio providing coverage with Travis Jones handling the call.