I expected West Virginia to at least contend in this game against the Dukes, who advanced to the WNIT last season. I suppose I expected a little too much in their first game after final exams, though, as the closest the game ever got was an early 10-2 lead by JMU. You know it's going to be a long day when, while playing a zone defense in hopes of stopping the taller JMU post players, the tallest of them all, 6'5" center Hollee Franklin nails a three-point jumper about halfway through the first half. In fact, Franklin went a perfect five-for-five from the field in dominating fashion, though she only pulled down one rebound.
That's another thing that really did not go well for the Mountaineers. James Madison got more rebounds on offense than West Virginia did on defense, 17 to 16. Either way, the game was a bad one for West Virginia. After nailing her first shot, Kate Bulger went cold along with the Mountaineer's hopes. With Alisha Bogan out with an injury, the hopes pretty much settled on WVU's starting five and two off the bench. Yolanda Paige stepped up and delivered her typical performance, though this time playing for 39 minutes, but Sherell Sowho played totally out of control in her 38 minutes of action. The bright spot was again the offensive play of Brandi Batch.
Very little worked, it seemed. WVU would play a zone, JMU would stick the three (even that 6'5" center). WVU would play man-to-man, and something would break down for JMU to score an easy lay-in. Even the pressure defense, probably one of WVU's brightest spots this season, was broken down by the unexpected speed of the Dukes. I hadn't expected JMU to have the speed to match WVU, but they proved they have the wheels to run when they want. When WVU would get a turnover, it would go right back to JMU. So little went right it was hard to watch.
What else can I really say? It looked, early in the second half, like the Mountaineers would have a chance to come back, but it degenerated into a game of trading baskets, with scoring going even at 34 each.
Coming off the bench again, Brandi Batch was the Mountaineer highlight. Brandi scored 18 points on 6-10 shooting, with four rebounds. Yolanda Paige followed Brandi with her usual 14 points, off of 5-9 shooting, but she had seven turnovers. Kate Bulger had her third tough game in a row with 10. Sherell Sowho, probably on the court for 38 minutes because Alisha Bogan was out, played totally out of control, fumbling breakaways and even dribbling off her foot at one point with no pressure. She wound up with eight points on 1-10 shooting. Eartha White had four and Mary Grace Carson two.
The Mountaineers shot a lowly 38% from the field, turning the ball over 19 times, and grabbing only 26 rebounds.
James Madison was led by Shanna Price with 19 points and seven rebounds. Hollee Franklin, as I said, had 14 points on 5-5 shooting. Jess Cichowicz had 11 and Allyson Keener had 10. Nadine Morgan pulled down 10 rebounds.
The Dukes shot 48% from the field, turned the ball over 14 times, and grabbed 40 rebounds.
The best medicine for the Mountaineers (5-4) will be a Thursday night game at Towson, not exactly known as a powerful team, in fact, a team West Virginia beat last year. This is not the end of the world for the Mountaineers, who are virtually assured of breaking last year's win total, probably by a good number of games. But, a win in this game would have set this team to possibly have a great deal of momentum going into the new year. James Madison (6-2), meanwhile, faces a good test against Virginia Tech before preparing for their holiday.