Cincinnati (15-8, 5-7) put an end to their second three-game losing skid of the season with their win over the Mountaineers Wednesday night, giving hope again to their postseason hopes – Big East Tournament included. Cincinnati came into the contest with West Virginia (12-11, 4-8) tied for tenth place in the Big East standings, the final spot available for the 10 would-be conference tournament qualifiers.
In a game where both points and bandaids were at a premium, it seemingly came down to which team was able to display most effectively not only their desire to win, but most importantly their desperate unwillingness to lose. Cincinnati, who unbelievably shot sub-thirty percent from the floor (.261), the first time UC has been shot that poorly since the final game of last season against Charlotte in the C-USA Tournament, utilized the hustle points that both the men and women's basketball programs have become known for. UC dominated the Mountaineers in the points off turnovers and second chance categories (44 to 17).
UC was also opportunistic when it came to rebounding their own misses – and, oh, how many chances they had. The Bearcats were able to makes 21 points off their 51(!) errant field goal attempts, thanks in large part to a stellar effort on the offensive glass. While UC pulled down an astounding 28 offensive rebounds and won the overall rebounding margin 49 to 34.
Epitomizing the blue collar, yeoman effort ware the efforts of Shelly Bellman and Anne Stephens. Though neither player performed particularly offensively (combing for 8 points), mirroring the sluggish overall success of most of the team, both dutifully portrayed the yeoman-like effort that made this win possible for the Bearcats. Bellman, who despite struggling from the floor (6 points on 2-of-11 shooting) and handling the ball (four turnovers), pulled down a game-high 14 rebounds (six offensive) and collected two steals which turned into UC buckets..
Stephens helped torch her home state with a strong performance on the boards as well. Stephens, who along with her sister Jill, grew up less than an hour from Morgantown, pulled down five crucial offensive boards, eight overall.
Cincinnati was nearly as opportunistic when it came to taking advantage of West Virginia mistakes. Living off the ever-so-famous basketball adage "one person's garbage possession is another woman's treasure" (not Treasure Humphries), the Bearcats were able to transform 24 WVU turnovers into 23 golden points.
This was especially the case during a sloppy-competitive first half, which saw the teams combine for more turnovers than made field goals (23 to 19). UC, who scored 10 of the final 12 points of the half during the final 3:38 of the half, committed a relatively mild 10 turnovers during the first 20 minutes of action compared to the Mountaineers 13, and refused to let their offensive mistakes hinder their ability to win. The Bearcats played true to the blue-collar mentality, taking advantage of every opportunity they were presented with. The Bearcats scored 23 of their points off either WVU turnovers (12) or second chance opportunities of their own (11).
West Virginia, on the other hand, was limited to just five points off turnovers and zero second chance points. This stat was padded by the collective assertiveness the Bearcats displayed on the glass. Despite 16 opportunities, the Mountaineers were held to just three offensive rebounds
The Mountaineers, who blamed their shooting woes on their own "lack of heart", shot a dismal 19 of 49 from the floor – (which was ironically 12-percent better than the Bearcats (38- to 26-percent)), including zero for 13 from behind the arc.
Coach Mike Carey, who has helped rebuild a slumping WVU team, leading them to two NCAA births in the previous three seasons, dressed down Tameka Kelly for apparently not displaying an attitude befitting a basketball player who looked to win the game.
While tonight was certainly a low for the Mountaineers, their program, and their Big East and Postseason Tournament résumé, they have had to endure a great many potholes in their road to success over the past few weeks.
Without the services of junior standout Meg Bulger (who suffered a season-ending knee injury against St. John's) the Mountaineers leading scorer and best all around player the WVU women's basketball team has struggled mightily. Bulger is the younger sister of former Mountaineer football standout and current St. Louis Ram signal-caller Marc Bulger
Losing their last three after possibly their best all-around performance against DePaul without the services of Bulger, the Mountaineers have lost three close contests to UConn and Rutgers (both ranked in the nation's top-10) with a disappointing loss to Big East bottom-dweller Providence thrown in (who has two wins in conference, including one over UC). The 5-10 wing-player was a do-it-all kind of player, and without here WVU has struggled to do anything at all – and tonight echoed that success loud and clear.
While UC has played less than well over they past few games, tonight's game at least showed some of the heart the team had seemed to lack in recent games – especially during a hard-fought first half. Despite the overall shooting woes for the ‘Cats, UC did see a pair of one person scoring streaks pace them for the first half. Both Harvey and Twehues were unstoppable for stretches during the opening twenty minutes of action. Harvey scored the first seven straight points of the Bearcats 10-0 run to close the first half, the run that pretty much nailed shut West Virginia's game and tournament coffins.
Twehues scored eight-straight points for the Bearcats in the first minute 1:41 of her being on the floor. Twehues, who played only seven minutes during the first half, showed little timidity coming off the bench, tossing up 8 first-half shots. Though missing her next five shots (three three-pointers), Twehues scored eight points for the Bearcats on her first three shot attempts coming off the bench.
Cincinnati will look to further propel their chances at making a late-March run with a home match-up against interstate rival and former C-USA, now Big East rival Louisville, Saturday at 2 pm.at Fifth Third Arena.