Kate Bulger, with a big dose of help from Brandi Batch, Sherell Sowho, Yolanda Paige, and Eartha White turned the tide in the second half of the game to lead the Mountaineers to a 2-0 start. Bulger led the Mountaineers with 25 points off of 9-21 shooting, including a career-high 7-14 from beyond the arc.
It took West Virginia 7 minutes and 20 seconds to get on the board, trailing the Dukes 11-2 on a score by Bulger. The Mountaineers had a very difficult time in the paint in the first half, yielding 12 points to junior center Beth Friday. On the other end of the court, the Duquesne 2-3 zone kept West Virginia cold, making only 6-24 shots. The Mountaineers only managed to pull as close as 9, when Sherell Sowho made 2 free throws with 6:29 left. The Dukes led 33-20 at the half.
West Virginia regrouped in the second half, going on a 21-8 run led by 3 3-pointers by Bulger to tie the score at 41 with 11:55 left. However, Duquesne managed to rebound, this time with the guards leading the way. Sophomore Shiri Sharon sparked the Dukes with a pair of 3's to take the Dukes on a 23-11 run to extend the lead again to 63-52 with 5 minutes to go. The Mountaineers refused to give up, though, with Batch and Bulger taking over to force the first WVU lead of the game, 68-66 within 3 minutes. The Mountaineers couldn't finish off the Dukes, with an opportunity off a blocked shot by Eartha White missed by Yolanda Paige. It was Beth Friday who came through for the Dukes to force overtime at 73-73.
Overtime saw more of the same. Duquesne took a quick 75-73 lead off of a pair of Candace Futrell free-throws, but Sherell Sowho responded on the other end with a quick two. Eartha White then nailed two more and drew a foul, adding one more to make it 78-75. It looked like WVU would finally have the breathing room it needed, but Ixana Shetho came back with a three to tie it up, only to foul out on the ensuing possession. Brandi Batch canned 2 to make it 80-78. Again, Tionda Jennings came back to tie the score at 80, then Beth Friday hit 1 of 2 free throws to give the Dukes an 81-80 lead. But, just like in regulation, Kate Bulger nailed a 3 to give the Mountaineers the lead for good at 83-81. Brandi Batch sealed it with a free throw, 84-81.
Eartha White, in her first game as a Mountaineer, came strong off the bench with 11 points on 4-6 shooting (3-7 FT). Big East rookie of the week Yolanda Paige got 10 on 4-8 shooting (2-4 FT). Sherell Sowho got 18 on 6-11 shooting (5-8 FT, one 3-pointer). Senior Brandi Batch contributed 13. Alisha Bogan had 3 and Zsophia Horvath 4.
Duquesne was led by Beth Friday with a career-high 24 points.
The Mountaineers showed something I haven't seen in awhile from their team: character and poise. As I said, they didn't give up when it really looked like they were down for the count, not once, but twice. In my book, that's what winners are made of. I've been a critic of Brandi Batch for three years, but tonight she stepped up as a senior when her team needed her the most. After being blanked in the first half, Brandi scored 3 field goals in the second, and, more importantly, sank 7 free throws when it seemed nobody else would, not her strongest area in the past. Kate Bulger pushed back her frustration to bomb 18 in the second half, all off of 3-pointers.
For all the good, there was some bad. West Virginia missed a lot of opportunities to gain on the Dukes. Yolanda Paige missed a free throw when the game was tied at 41, which may have kept WVU momentum. As a matter of fact, a lot of free throws were missed, as WVU went 20-35 from the line. WVU never managed to full stop the inside game of the Dukes, which proved frustrating during the second half runs. An inopportune foul midway through the second Duquesne run resulted in a 5-point play, solidly shifting momentum.
Those gripes, however, cannot overshadow one thing. West Virginia is 2-0, and has proven they can come back when it looks like they're down and out. Let's practice some free-throws and enjoy a very special Thanksgiving this year. But, let's not load up on too much turkey as the Mountaineers travel to Colorado Springs to face #20 Colorado State Friday in the first round of a holiday tournament. Colorado State is tough, coming off a second-round bid in the NCAA tournament last year. We should get a nice gage of how we stack up when the results come in Friday.