WVU Rips St. John's

The West Virginia University women's basketball team notched its first Big East Tournament win since 1998 while grabbing its first 20-win season since 1991-92 Saturday night in Hartford by blowing away the Red Storm of St. John's, 84-59.

The Mountaineers played probably their best first half in a game this season, never yielding the lead and scoring 49 points on a surge by junior Yolanda Paige. WVU gradually built the lead throughout the half, and actually let up in the final two minutes to run clock and take a 49-30 lead into the locker room.

The second half was more evenly matched, with WVU resting its starters and running clock, the Mountaineers only managed to outscore the Red Storm 35-29, but the best run St. John's could mount was 6-0 to close the gap to 66-42.

This could perhaps be a candidate for WVU's best performance of the season, coming at just the right time. But, it is doubtful that this game will take that designation, as the Mountaineers continued to struggle on the boards, this time against a equally-sized if not somewhat smaller smaller Red Storm. WVU was out-rebounded 36-33, and St. John's managed to get 16 rebounds on offense. Making the difference was the assist-to-turnover ratio: WVU committed nine turnovers to 22 assists, whereas the Red Storm had 22 turnovers and 11 assists.

Speaking of assists, Paige, my pick as the best TRUE point guard in the country, who was snubbed by the Big East conference with a third-team all-conference selection, played the Red Storm like a woman possessed. Paige led all scorers with 22 points on 9-14 shooting. She led all rebounders with seven, came within one assist of tying the conference tournament game record with 13, and set a conference tournament game record with eight steals. Paige was but three boards and two steals away from a rare quadrulpe-double.

While "Weezy" led the total of five Mountaineers in double figures: Sherell Sowho scored 16, Big East Freshman of the Year Meg Bulger had 12, and Latitia Williams and Michelle Carter each poured in 10.

Shemika Stevens and Angie Clark scored 11 apiece to lead St. John's.

West Virginia improves its overall record to 20-9, and is on the brink of an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. The Mountaineers could potentially secure that bid tonight in a big rematch with Harry Peretta's Villanova Wildcats at 8:00 p.m. The Wildcats had a first-round bye in the tournament and are looking to repeat as conference champions, while the Mountaineers look for their first ever victory in the second-round of the tournament, and first victory against Villanova since 1998.

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