QUEENS, N.Y. – The West Virginia University women’s basketball team fell to No. 20 St. John’s, 63-54, at Carnesecca Arena on Tuesday night.
The Mountaineers (19-8, 9-5 BIG EAST) struggled from the outset, as St. John’s started the game with an early 7-0 scoring run. That, combined with cold first half shooting from West Virginia, allowed St. John’s to capitalize and take a 31-18 lead into the locker room at halftime.
"St. John’s came out and played harder than we did," said head coach Mike Carey. "The first four minutes they set the tone."
West Virginia started the second half much stronger than it did the first half, quickly coming out and going on a 17-6 scoring run to bring the game within reach at 37-36. St. John’s answered with a 9-3 scoring run of their own, however, to extend the lead back out to 46-39.
While the Mountaineers would fight back again, coming as close as within six points of the lead on a jumper from Brooke Hampton
with 4:19 remaining in regulation, they were ultimately unable to come any closer than that.
"The second half we played a little harder," said Carey. "We were down 13 at halftime and we fought back and cut it to one and then we let them score nine-straight points to extend the lead back to 10."
Ayana Dunning led the Mountaineers with her fifth double-double of the season, scoring a career-high 21 points and pulling down 16 rebounds. She ended the night 9-of-10 from the field and 3-of-5 from the line, and has now posted double figures in five-straight games.
Behind Dunning, Caldwell scored 14 second-half points to extend her own streak of double figure scoring games to 15.
, Taylor Palmer
and Hampton rounded out the top scorers, each contributing five points.
West Virginia could not find its rhythm on offense, only converting 34.6 percent (18-of-52) from the field and 25.0 percent (5-of-20) from beyond the arc. They were more successful from the line, converting 59.1 percent (13-of-22) of their foul shots.
In comparison, St. John’s went 43.8 percent (21-of-48) from the field and 50.0 percent (3-of-6) from 3-point range. They went just about even with the Mountaineers from the line, converting 52.9 percent (18-of-34) from the charity stripe.
Additionally, St. John's out-rebounded the Mountaineers, 39-36, marking just the second time in league play this season that West Virginia has not won on the boards.
Behind Dunning, Akilah Bethel pulled down six boards for the Mountaineers.
The Red Storm (19-8, 11-3 BIG EAST) were effective in shutting West Virginia down in the paint, giving up just 16 points while scoring 28 of their own.
In addition, they capitalized on Mountaineer turnovers, scoring 19 points off of West Virginia errors while committing 11 turnovers.
Nadirah McKenith paved the way for St. John’s with 26 points. Behind McKenith, Shenneika Smith scored 12 points and Da’Shena Stevens posted 10 points.
“This is the fifth-straight ranked team we played," Carey ended. "There aren’t a lot of conferences where you’ll play five-straight teams that are ranked. This league is very tough; make no doubt about it. Connecticut has a great recruiting class coming in next year and so does Notre Dame. St. John’s is young, they have a bunch of juniors and they’re going to be very good. They’re going to be a lot of very good teams next year in the BIG EAST.”
The Mountaineers next travel to Cincinnati on Saturday, Feb. 25 to take on the Bearcats at Fifth Third Arena in a 2 p.m. tip. Live audio and stats will be provided by MSNsportsNET.com.