Despite UMBC's 1-2 record entering the game, including a 74-65 loss to Mount Saint Mary's (whom WVU defeated 77-57 earlier in the year) and an intimidating greeting for the Retrievers presented by the Mountaineer musket, West Virginia was unable to get the wheels turning early, allowing the Retriever fans to think upset, at least for a little while.
West Virginia took an early 6-2 lead going into the first official timeout, and slowly sustained that lead at 9-5 with eight minutes remaining. But, UMBC "fought" its way back with a 4-0 run to tie the game at 9-9 with seven minutes left.
This tie provided the fans in the Coliseum an opportunity to sneak in a quick nap, or perhaps make a run to the concession stands, as the score would remain that way until Zsophia "The Hun" Horvath came off the bench to score a quick two and make the score 11-9 with 3:30 left in the first half.
West Virginia used this opportunity, probably motivated by my strong coffee, to go on a 12-4 run and find their stride in the remaining minutes of the half, led by back-to-back scores resulting in five points from Alisha Bogan. The score at halftime was 23-13 WVU. How bad was it? West Virginia shot a lowly 37% (9-24) in the first half, only to have UMBC outdo them with 22% (6-27) shooting. Each team turned the ball over 10 times.
Thank goodness for halftime. I'm not sure what Mike Carey had to say to his team in the locker room, but it worked. The Mountaineers played more like the motivated team we've seen this year when they took the floor for the second half. Led early by Kate Bulger and perfect second half shooting by Yolanda Paige, the WVU players each slowly found their groove and for the second straight game, my favorite thing happened: everyone got to play.
It looked as if UMBC might get on track as Millette Green scored the first bucket of the half to make the score 23-15. The Mountaineers, however, quickly responded (as has been their trademark so far this season) with a quick 9-0 spurt to make it 32-15. UMBC's last hope of starting up their engines was a 6-4 stretch, "closing" to within 15 at 36-21. Well, it just wasn't meant to be, as 15 was as close as it would be for the rest of the game, as the Mountaineers got better and the Retrievers didn't, bringing the final tally to 69-45.
Kate Bulger scored 14 points in the second half to lead all scorers (again!) with 21 points on 75% (8-12) shooting while dishing out six assists. Yolanda Paige shot a perfect 4-4 on the second half to trail Bulger and tie Sherell Sowho with 12 points.
Eartha White continued to impress, coming off the bench for eight points, six of those coming in the second half. Zsophia Horvath shot 75% (3-4) for six points and led all rebounders with nine. Alisha Bogan scored five, Brandi Batch had a rough game with only three free throws in the first half (but she did grab six boards), and Mary Grace Carson scored two. As I mentioned above, all 12 Mountaineers got on the stat sheet as Kristen Kilgore, Jess Fisher, Marsha Kinder and Aubrey Guastalli got playing time. The Mountaineers wound up shooting 48% from the floor.
UMBC was led by point guard Jessie "Short Shorts" Brown, who rallied to score 10, eight of which came in the second half. Matea Pender followed with eight, Millette Green and Christine Catalanatto had six each, Yinka Bada scored four, Lara Seamon three and Tiffany Coll had two for the Retrievers.
I'm happy to report that free throws were better for the Mountaineers today, as the Mountaineers only missed three. Not bad, shooting 77% from the line. Turnovers continued to be a problem, though, as they gave the ball up 21 times.
West Virginia advances now to 4-2, and looks to be well within reach of last year's win total, perhaps before 2002. The Mountaineers face a tough test coming up this Tuesday, as they travel to Miami for their first Big East matchup of the season. Miami should be a good gauge of where the Mountaineers stand to wind up in the conference this year, as historically the Hurricanes are a good middle-of-the-road team, cruising around the .500 mark. The Mountaineers have never won a game in Miami, and are 1-10 against the Hurricanes, the lone win coming in Morgantown with a 75-70 score in 1997.