Women Gain Wright Revenge

The mere mention of the Wright State Raiders is enough to send chills down the spine of any hardcore fan of West Virginia women's basketball.

With all due respect to the University located in Dayton, Ohio, the Raider women have not exactly been a team one would expect to match up with the rest of their Midwestern Collegiate Conference, much less a team from the Big East Conference.

But, the Raiders have proven to be a formidable opponent in three previous matchups with the Mountaineers, entering this contest with a 2-1 all-time record against West Virginia, including a gut-wrenching 68-60 win in 1997. The 1998 WSU media guide makes special note of the win in a quote I will not soon forget:

"One of the biggest wins in WSU women's basketball history as the Mountaineers enter the game with a record of 17-9."

That win destroyed any hopes of a postseason bid for the last winning Mountaineer team (they went 6-21 the next year). Last year, the Raiders rebounded from a 20-point second half deficit to defeat the Mountaineers, 69-65 in Morgantown.

That was then, this is now. West Virginia has a new attitude, a new coach, and two players named as Big East Rookies of the Week for two straight weeks. This week, Sherell Sowho took the honors after averaging 18.3 points in three games last week. The new attitude was proven that week, with a big come-from-behind win at Duquesne, and two very competitive losses in Colorado to #20 Colorado State and #24 Toledo. Wright State, on the other hand, entered the game with five freshmen, four sophomores, no seniors and an 0-4 record.

...And the attitude continues to improve. West Virginia may have finally shaken a monkey I consider to have been on their back since that loss in 1997, with a huge 90-53 win over the Raiders in Dayton this evening.

What can I really say about the game? It was pure domination from the opening tip. West Virginia soared to a quick 10-2 lead three minutes into the game off of back-to-back field goals by Sowho and back-to-back 3's by Kate Bulger. The closest the Raiders ever got in the game was a 12-10 score off of a 3-point shot by Vanessa Thompson with 14:35 left in the first half. West Virginia opened the second half with a 20-4 run to seal the doom of the Raiders. Wright State turned the ball over 26 times and shot 34% to WVU's 53%. There's really not much more about it to say.

West Virginia was led once again by Kate Bulger, who fell a couple of points shy of a career-high with 27 points on 11-18 shooting, including 5-11 from three-point range. She also pulled down eight rebounds.

Sherell Sowho continues to impress, with 21 points off of 9-14 shooting and five assists. Eartha White had another big game off the bench, with 10 points and eight rebounds.

Yolanda Paige had nine points and seven assists, Zsophia Horvath had seven points and five rebounds, Brandi Batch had six points, Mary Grace Carson had five points, Alisha Bogan and Kristen Kilgore had two each and Jess Fisher contributed one for the Mountaineers. All 12 Mountaineers dressed for the game got a chance to play.

Wright State was led by Tiffany Webb, who scored a career-high 17 points. She was followed by Brie Pennington with 10 points. Iesha Gray and Danyelle Sawyer each had eight, Katie Bussan and Vanessa Thompson scored three each and Angie Ott had two.

Lumberport, West Virginia native Tabitha Hutson came off the bench for the Raiders and scored 2. Dori Glance, a native of Rivesville, did not see any playing time tonight.

The 90 points scored by West Virginia tonight were the most since a 90-80 win over Robert Morris in 1999. I'd venture to say this is the most convincing victory by West Virginia in an even longer span, though the stats escape me.

This game was just another stepping stone in rebuilding the Mountaineer program. It was nice to see a West Virginia team go into Dayton with a clearly defined mission and absolutely dominate every facet of the game. Free throws could still use some work, but I'd say they were clicking on all cylinders tonight in spite of continued trouble at the line.

With the schedule we've seen this early into the season, I'll take a 3-2 record any day. West Virginia is halfway to last year's win total, and only a TOTAL of 27 points short of a 5-0 start against two top-25 teams. Not bad for a young team with a new coach!

West Virginia returns home to face the University of Maryland - Baltimore County Retrievers on Saturday.

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