CINCINNATI, Ohio – The West Virginia University women’s basketball team rallied from an early 14-point deficit to defeat Cincinnati, 66-62, at Fifth Third Arena in its final regular-season road game.
The Mountaineers (20-8, 10-5 BIG EAST) struggled on both sides of the ball during the early part of the contest, allowing the Bearcats (15-13, 6-9 BIG EAST) to jump out to a 16-2 lead by the 13:24 mark of the first half.
West Virginia would battle its way back, however, going on a 9-2 scoring run sparked by free throws from sophomore Taylor Palmer
and freshman Linda Stepney
, followed by two points each from redshirt-sophomore Christal Caldwell
, freshman Akilah Bethel and junior Asya Bussie
Continuing to steadily chip away at Cincinnati’s lead, the Mountaineers went into the locker room at halftime down just two points, 28-26.
The teams traded points throughout the majority of the second half, neither able to really pull away. With 19 seconds remaining in regulation and the Mountaineers holding onto a tenuous 64-62 lead, the team once again called on sophomore Brooke Hampton
to seal a West Virginia win on the road, as she stepped to the line having been fouled by Cincinnati's Dayeesha Hollins. She did just that, sinking two free throws to finalize the score at 66-62.
West Virginia was led in scoring by both Caldwell and junior Asya Bussie
, each scoring 15 points against the Bearcats. Behind them, redshirt-junior Ayana Dunning along with sophomores Jess Harlee
and Hampton all posted eight points.
Despite cold shooting in the first half, West Virginia was able to end the game converting 44.2 percent (23-of-52) from the field and 28.6 percent (2-of-7) from beyond the arc. It also finished the game shooting 81.8 percent (18-of-22) from the line.
Cincinnati’s numbers were comparable, as the Bearcats also shot 44.0 percent (22-of-50) from the field while shooting a slightly better 35.3 percent (6-of-17) from 3-point range. They also finished the game shooting 80.0 percent (12-of-15) from the charity stripe.
The Mountaineers dominated in the paint, scoring 40 points to Cincinnati’s 28. They also had help from the bench, as it contributed 17 points in the win.
With its 32 rebounds, West Virginia also continued its success on the boards having now out-rebounded all but two league opponents this season. Only Marquette and St. John’s have been able to outplay the Mountaineers on the glass.
Dunning paved the way for the Mountaineers with 11 rebounds and how has 10 double-figure rebounding games. She was followed by Harlee who pulled down six boards, and Bethel who grabbed five.
The Bearcats were led in scoring by senior Bjonee Reaves, who posted 22 points against the Mountaineers. Behind Reaves, senior Chanel Chisholm and Hollins scored 12 and 11 points, respectively.
The Mountaineers return to the Coliseum on Monday, Feb. 27 to host Pitt in the final game of the regular season and celebrate senior night by honoring lone senior Natalie Burton. The game will be broadcast live on CBS Sports Network with Deb Antonelli and Brent Stover. Live stats along with a full recap will be provided by MSNsportsNET.com.