West Virginia really could not find a rhythm in the first half. Perhaps it was the rims on the offensive side, perhaps there was some overlooking the competition towards next week on the defensive side. Whatever it was, the Mountaineers effort was simply ugly. While Providence never led and only managed one tie at 2-2, WVU could not manage more than a seven point lead for most of the half, and the Friars were able to respond to the initial set of runs WVU put together, keeping the margin within a field goal until the clock went under five minutes.
With the Friars trailing by one, Sherell Sowho hit a three-pointer to make the score 23-19, and Kate Bulger then hit a three to make it 26-19 with 3:50 to go. The half ended with a 12-4 WVU run resulting in a 32-23 score.
The second half, as measured by most of this season, did not promise to be much more exciting. The typical WVU game this year has consisted of a big first half run with the Mountaineers taking a double-digit lead into the locker room, followed by a sluggish second half and closer than expected finishes. This evening, however, the Mountaineers bucked the trend for the second straight game. While the Mountaineers shot a dismal 12-37 in the first half, Mike Carey sparked his team in the locker room to an offensive explosion (and perhaps the rims helped out a bit) that saw WVU shoot 21-32 in the final 20 minutes.
The half opened with a three by Kate Bulger, followed by a bucket by PC's Gayle Nwafali to make the score 35-25. What followed was an 11-2 WVU run. What made this particular run different was, all 11 points were scored by Sowho. Sowho's 11 resulted in THREE timeouts by the Friars during that three-minute stint and virtually ended the game at 15:51. Her offense got the rest of the team pumping, and the Mountaineers outscored the Friars 56-25 to end the game.
Sherell Sowho led the Mountaineers with her career-high 28 points, shooting 10-14 from the field, including five three-pointers. Kate Bulger was close behind, scoring 21 for her 27th career 20+ point game, moving her past Donna Abbott into fourth on the all-time list at WVU. Meg Bulger came off the bench to stake a claim at perhaps her fourth straight Big East Freshman of the Week award, scoring a double-double with 16 points and 12 rebounds. Latitia Williams scored seven, and Michelle Carter, Janell Dunlap, and Yolanda Paige had four apiece. Paige continues to chase the title of the nation's assists leader, dishing out 12 in "only" 37 minutes of playing time.
This was a big win for West Virginia in many respects. The aforementioned 7-2 conference start gives Mike Carey the most conference wins in a season for his short career. If the Mountaineers defeat Syracuse on Saturday, they are assured of their first .500 regular season in Big East play since 1996-97, when the Mountaineers went 11-8 in the regular season. The 16 wins is also the most for Mike Carey's career at WVU, and again the most since 1996-97 when the team went 19-12. The Syracuse game now becomes even that much more important, being the last real "should win" game on the schedule (on paper, at least).
Note to the writers, coaches, et al: barring major disasters - Mike Carey for Big East Coach of the Year. He's been robbed of it twice, it's his time. Meg Bulger for Freshman of the Year. Yolanda Paige for Lieberman award and first team all-Big East - they need a point guard on the first team, and, no, Diana Taurasi and Cappie Poindexter aren't really point guards.
West Virginia, now 16-5, 7-2, faces Syracuse at home on Saturday evening.