MORGANTOWN, W. Va. – The West Virginia University women’s basketball team defeated rival Pitt, 60-42, at the Coliseum on Monday evening.
With the win, the Mountaineers (21-8, 11-5 BIG EAST) earned their seventh 21-win season in the last nine years, and are now guaranteed a fifth-place regular-season conference finish and a first-round bye in the BIG EAST Championship.
“For this team, losing so many seniors and 80 percent of our offense, you have got to give some of these players credit,” said head coach Mike Carey.
“If somebody would have told me before the season started that we would be 21-8 now and 11-5 in the BIG EAST, I would have told them that they were crazy,” he continued. “I am just like every other coach in the country, there were probably three or four of those five losses in the BIG EAST that we shouldn’t have lost, but when you are young you are going to be inconsistent.”
Both West Virginia and Pitt struggled offensively early on, neither able to gain an advantage during the first half resulting in an 18-18 tie heading into the locker room. Entering the second half much the same, the Mountaineers wouldn’t be able to pull away from Pitt until two free throws from redshirt-sophomore Christal Caldwell
at the 15:52 mark brought the score to 29-27 and provided a spark offensively.
After that point, the Mountaineers went on a 12-3 scoring run to bring the score to 41-30 with just under nine minutes to play. The Panthers (8-21, 0-16 BIG EAST) would be unable to stage a comeback.
West Virginia was led in scoring by junior Asya Bussie
, who posted 14 points and pulled down seven rebounds in 31 minutes of play. Behind Bussie, sophomore Taylor Palmer
scored nine points while redshirt-sophomore Christal Caldwell
Both teams saw cold shooting during the first half, but West Virginia was able to improve to 38.6 percent (17-of-44) from the field and to 30.0 percent (3-of-10) from beyond the arc by the end of the contest. They also went 63.9 percent (23-of-36) from the line.
In comparison, Pitt was held to just 32.7 percent (17-of-52) from the field and to 25.0 percent (1-of-4) from 3-point range. It converted 58.3 percent (7-of-12) from the charity stripe.
Neither squad held an advantage in the paint or off of turnovers as they both scored 24 and 15 points in those respective categories. However, West Virginia’s bench players scored 31 points to help seal the win.
The Mountaineers also out-rebounded the Panthers, 40-30, with redshirt-junior Ayana Dunning paving the way with eight boards.
The Panthers were led by freshman Brianna Kiesel who scored 21 points and redshirt-sophomore Leeza Burdgess who scored nine.
“Give our players a lot of credit,” Carey ended. “I am proud of them. We did what we had to do the second half to win the game. We just have to move on. We can’t play that way when we go to the BIG EAST Championship and we can’t play that way when we go to the NCAA Tournament. We know that and we just have to learn from this.”
With their first-round bye, the Mountaineers return to action on Saturday, March 3 in the second round of the BIG EAST Championship at the XL Center in Hartford, Conn.