It was a typical WVU/Georgetown match - rather slow, rather physical, and really close throughout the game. Each team had its hot and cold streaks. Atypical, for the recent win streak at least, was the way West Virginia played the first half, and even the second, for that matter. The game started out exactly as last Saturday's match with Syracuse, with Kate Bulger opening the game with a three. Unlike the Syracuse contest, however, that was only the beginning for Kate.
Both teams traded the lead back-and-forth through the first ten minutes, and the first time either team pulled out a decent lead was on a WVU run that produced a 22-14 lead with about six minutes remaining. Georgetown slowly responded, and closed out the half with a 20-8 lead to take a 34-30 lead into the locker room. West Virginia struggled down the stretch in the first half, committing five turnovers in the final four minutes. Meg Bulger, held scoreless, rode the bench with two fouls, as did Janell Dunlap. Dunlap's absence was particularly hurtful, as she had held All-American Rebekkah Brunson to four points in the first ten minutes of the game. After Dunlap was benched, Brunson came on strong with eight more to close the half.
WVU responded with their trademark big run, this time at the beginning of the second half. Typically sluggish, slow, and out of momentum when coming out of the locker room, the Mountaineers surged behind ten points from Kate in the first five minutes to go on what ended as an 18-3 run at 13:20 with the score going in favor of the Blue & Gold, 48-37.
Georgetown, however, was not done. WVU's slump soon ensued as the Hoyas went on an 8-2 run to close back to 50-37 with 8:59 left. This was the best the Hoyas could do. They pulled within four at 57-53 with 3:40 to go, but then Meg Bulger literally exploded for WVU, scoring seven in the final stretch to pull the Mountaineers away to victory.
I don't want to take away from the team effor, but this game rested on the Bulger sisters. Kate and Meg combined for for 32 points: Kate had 21, Meg 11. While Meg was the lower scorer this time around, I think she again provided the spark the Mountaineers needed at just the right time. Georgetown was prepared to make a run at the end of the game like they had in the first half, and Meg took control to pull WVU away. Her three-pointer with 1:40 to go drove a dagger right through Georgetown's heart, pulling WVU to a nine point advantage, and Patrick Knapp could not find an answer.
Kate's awakening at the beginning of the half gave the Mountaineers enough breathing room for Coach Carey to not have to worry so much about team foul trouble, and it actually bought herself a bit of a breather on the bench going into the final ten minutes.
Kate shot 7-17 from the field, 5-11 from three point range, and she led the team with eight rebounds. The five threes expand her school record total to 262. Her 21 points also have moved her up in the record book in a couple of categories: she's now tied with Donna Abbott for fifth in career 20+ point games with 26, and she now moves into sole possession of sixth on the all-time scoring list past Olivia Bradley, with 1,543 points. With nine games left in the regular season, Kate stands a reasonable chance of catching Donna Abbott for fourth place, with 1,656 points.
Meg followed her sister with 11 points on 4-7 shooting from the field. Yolanda Paige and Sherell Sowho each scored 10 points, with Paige dishing out six assists, Michelle Carter scored eight points, and Kate Glusko made another big contribution off the bench in the first half with five. Latitia Williams scored three, and Janell Dunlap rounded out the scorers with two.
Dunlap's contribution can't necessarily be seen on the stat sheet - she was the major reason that Brunson was held under a double-double, no small feat for any team, much less the "not-so-short short bench" of WVU. Brunson did lead the Hoyas with 19 points and eight rebounds.
West Virginia now expands its win streak to five, with an overall record of 14-5, 5-2 in conference play. The 5-2 start is second only to the 1996-97 Mountaineer squad, which started 7-2 in Big East play. The Mountaineers stand a good chance of surpassing that mark, with the next ten days being even more critical now than just a few hours ago. WVU hits the road to face Pitt Saturday and Providence next week, coming home to face Syracuse a week from Saturday - all very, very winnable games (the Mountaineers having already defeated Pitt and Syracuse once).
The road gets much tougher afterwards, with the remainder of WVU's opponents (six games) either being currently ranked or close to cracking the top 25: Virginia Tech, Villanova, Boston College, Rutgers, Miami, Connecticut. A 17-5 record going into those games would give the Mountaineers their best record in years, and a good shot at a postseason berth with a couple of wins in the final six. It all starts Saturday at Pittsburgh, with game time at 2:00 in Oakland.