While WVU managed another lousy game in the turnover column, giving the ball up a dismal 21 times, head coach Mike Carey had to be pleased with his team's overall performance. Kate Bulger, the leading scorer for the Mountaineers, was held to an unthinkable two points in the first half and 14 total for the game, but the rest of the team made up for her less-than-average performance under the pesky defensive performance of Ohio's Cathy Szall.
West Virginia entered the game with a 5-0 all-time series lead against the Bobcats, but with Bulger slowed, the game was too close for comfort in the first half. The Mountaineers only managed to lead by as much as four as they traded the lead with the Bobcats several times, mainly a result of 13 turnovers.
The Mountaineers were able to turn to strong play from freshmen Yolanda Paige and Sherell Sowho, as well as another strong performance off the bench for Brandi Batch. On the other hand, Ohio saw good performances in the first half from Lori Moorman, Beckie Fischer and Andrea Johnson to keep it close. The Bobcats' three-point shooting was a strong asset, as they sank three of them in the first half to none for WVU. Bulger was held scoreless until the 1:25 mark, when she sank a field goal to make the score 34-32 West Virginia. The Mountaineers went into the locker room with a 38-35 lead.
The second half really saw the entire team effort erupt for West Virginia. It looked for some time that it would be a complete Sherell Sowho effort, as she went on a 6-1 run to make the score 44-36. Bulger began to break from Ohio's grasp as she scored back-to-back field goals to make the score 51-43, which sparked a nice 13-1 run to break the game wide open, capped off with her first three of the night to make the score 60-44.
But as I said, Kate and Sherell were not the only stars in the second half, as Yolanda Paige's speed and scoring, Mary Grace Carson's rebounding, Zsophia Horvath's and Eartha White's scoring and rebounding, and Brandi Batch's senior leadership sparked the Mountaineer runaway to the 83-62 win.
How good did it get in the second half? Mike Carey pulled something that I've rarely seen in a women's basketball game recently. With 58 seconds left, Carey called timeout to clear the bench, to my knowledge the fourth time this season my favorite thing happened - every Mountaineer got to play. There is no better team effort than to get every member of the team a chance to get on the court, unless everyone gets on the scoreboard!
Freshman Yolanda Paige stepped up today for West Virginia with a career-high 19 points on 9-14 shooting. She was followed by Sherell Sowho and Kate Bulger, who had 14 each. Brandi Batch put up a valuable 12 points on 5-6 shooting, and Eartha White put up 10 points 4-6 shooting in her first career start. Zsophia Horvath put in eight on 4-7 shooting, including 3-4 in the second half. Mary Grace Carson had four points and six rebounds, and Alisha Bogan rounded out the scoring with two.
Ohio was led by guard Beckie Fischer who put in 11, eight of which came in the first half. Cathy Szall and Lori Moorman had 10 each, and were followed by Andrea Gay and Andrea Johnson with seven each. Latreece Begley came off the bench for six, Candace Bates had four, Melissa Burke put in three, and Erin Isbell and Megan Oriold each had two.
It is noteworthy that everybody on the Ohio end also got to play, which included Summersville, WV native Jessica Ferguson. Unfortunately, the freshman from Nicholas County High School was unable to get on the scoreboard.
This is a very significant win for West Virginia, as it indicates progress. This team, which couldn't win against MAC basement-dweller Marshall last year, knocked off a good middle-of-the-road MAC team which boasts one of the conference's best scorers in Szall. It's also very significant because the Mountaineers have equaled last year's win total in just eight games, with a schedule that had losses to two top-25 teams. The Mountaineers have yet to lose a game they're supposed to win, and they showed a lot of maturity stepping up in Bulger's first-half absence.
Improving to 5-3, West Virginia faces another good test traveling to James Madison next Sunday to face a Duke team that beat them in Morgantown on the road to the NIT last season. Ohio falls to 3-4 and will face Wright State on Wednesday.