Women Come Up Short (Literally) Against Buckeyes

West Virginia's women's basketball team battled Ohio State valiantly in the opening round of the NCAA tournament, but the home team's size advantage proved to be the difference in a 72-67 loss.

OSU's 6-5 center, Jessica Davenport, went 10-10 from the field, all from close range, and added three free throws to give the taller Buckeyes the win in the first round NCAA matchup.

Playing on their home floor, in front of a friendly crowd, the Buckeyes dominated the shorter Mountaineers inside, at one point piling up a 40-10 scoring advantage in the lane. Ohio State shot 50% from the field and hit 23 of their 34 free throw attempts to turn back a gritty WVU effort.

West Virginia was able to match OSU's inside scoring with good three point shooting and a dash of transition in the first half. Sherell Sowho hit three three-pointers, Yolanda Paige nailed two and Kate Bulger added one to stake the Mountaineers to a 38-31 lead late in the opening period. However, the Buckeyes rallied with seven straight points to tie the game at the half and set the stage for their interior domination in the second period.

West Virginia tried a number of defensive strategies to contain the taller Ohioans, but simply didn't have the height or wingspan to contend on a consistent basis, and it showed as the final period got underway. WVU managed just one field goal over a 14 minute span of the first and second halves, and while the Mountaineers managed to keep it close by hitting some free throws, Ohio State kept riding their inside play to build their lead.

OSU dominated the play inside defenisvely as well, blocking or altering a number of Mountaineer attempts in the paint. And when WVU's three-point shooting cooled off, the Gold and Blue was left with few offensive options. WVU was 10-28 from three point range, with the majority of the successes coming in the first half.

WVU did mount one rally late in the contest, cutting a eight-point lead in half late in the contest, but then put the home team back in the drivers' seat by committing a foul with just two seconds left on the shot clock. Ohio State hit both free throws to put themselves back in control of the game. Although WVU hit a couple of threes down the stretch, they never seriouisly threatened again, and ended their season with a 21-11 record.

Kate Bulger ended her stellar career at WVU with 15 points and 6 rebounds. Sherell Sowho had 14 points, five rebounds and two blocked shotes, while Yolanda Paige again proved to be the most dynamic player on the floor with 13 points, eight assists and two steals. Meg Bulger came off the bench to score 14 points.

RIFLE SHOTS

Janell Dunlap was a nonfactor for much of the game after being kicked in the midsection by Ohio State's LaToya Turner while Turner was trying to jump over the WVU bench. Dunlap, who wasn't in the game at the time, was taken to the locker room and later returned to the game.

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The game was played on the hideously marked St. John's arean floor, which has a volleyball court with painted sidelines superimposed over the basketball floor. If that's the best Ohio State can do for an NCAA tournament venue, then perhaps they shouldn't be included as a site.

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WVU managed to stay within five rebounds of OSU (33-28) but that was partly due to the fact that Ohio State, with good shooting, didn't need many second chances on the offensive end.


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