Women Outwit, Outplay, Outlast Hoyas

Georgetown thought they knew what the keys were to beating West Virginia. They had the Mountaineers scouted perfectly, or so they thought.

They obviously saw the tapes of the recent blowouts by Boston College and Villanova. All Georgetown would have to do is shut down Kate Bulger, slow Brandi Batch, and exploit the weaknesses of West Virginia's three point defense (or lack thereof).

The Hoyas were extremely successful in achieving all three of those goals. But, unfortunately for the Blue & Gray, it didn't work out in real life the way it had on television. Led by the strong inside play of Eartha White, West Virginia used a total team effort this evening to pull off the overtime victory over the Hoyas, 71-70, in one of the most competitive games in recent memory.

West Virginia started out in their typical slow fashion. It was all Nok Duany early, as she scored five of the game's first seven points to pull Georgetown to an early 7-0 lead. White finally got the Mountaineers on the board at the 16:00 mark to make the game 7-2, but the Hoyas were not to be denied early on.

Freshman Mary Lisicky nailed her first three of the night to make it 10-2. The two teams then went nearly shot-for-shot, a stat that showed up at halftime, with Georgetown maintaining a 17-10 lead at the 9:17 mark.

Finally, the Mountaineers began to come alive. West Virginia went on an 11-0 run after a Georgetown timeout to take the lead at 21-17. The Hoyas scored a quick four to bring the score within one at 25-24 at the final media timeout, with senior Lesley Walker waking up after starting 0-5 from the field. Walker tied it at 27-27, but the last two Mountaineer baskets of the half (27 & 29) were both scored on a good, quick run by Mary Grace Carson to make the score 29-27 at the half.

Statistically, the two teams were deadlocked at the half. Both teams were 10-32 from the field, a lowly 31%. The key differences were deeper. West Virginia shot only 1-8 from three-point range, the lone score from Kate Bulger, while Georgetown shot 2-6, a trey each from Lisicky and Walker. On the other hand, the Mountaineers shot 8-10 from the free throw line, while Georgetown shot only 5-10. Rebounds went in West Virginia's favor, barely, by a margin of 23-22, and turnovers were even at five.

The second half picked up right where the first half left off. Both teams traded baskets back and forth, with West Virginia's largest lead only getting to six at 37-31. The Hoyas managed to come back off of a three-point play and close within a couple of points, but amazingly, the Mountaineers never gave up the lead in the game, only allowing ties throughout.

Credit Eartha White, who opened up the half 4-4 from the field and grabbed key rebounds down the stretch for maintaining the lead, with lots of support from Yolanda Paige, Sherell Sowho, Brandi Batch, and, yes, Zsophia Horvath with some tough defense on Georgetown star Rebekkah Brunson when Batch was on the bench with four early fouls.

With 1:33 left in regulation, West Virginia managed to build a 65-62 lead off of two free throws from Yolanda Paige, after Lisicky had close the lead to one with another three. It looked like Georgetown would tie it when Lisicky was fouled on a three-point shot, but the freshman only managed to go 1-3 from the line to make it 65-63 with around 1:20 to go.

At that point, it appeared as if the Mountaineers would pull this out, but Duany hit a clutch shot with around 20 seconds left to tie it up at 65-65. Brandi Batch had a good look om the closing seconds, but the shot fell short as time expired.

Duany appeared to be the spoiler for West Virginia. In overtime, she gave Georgetown a 69-68 lead which looked insurmountable when combined with a Brunson free-throw to make the score 70-68. To make matters worse, Batch and White went a combined 2-4 from the line, but it did tie the score at 70. But, Duany then did herself and the Hoyas in. She fouled out of the game with 5.6 seconds left, fouling, of all people, White. Not the team's best free-throw shooter, White, in her best game as a Mountaineer, deservedly sank one of two to win the game, 71-70, for the Mountaineers.

The second half stats showed Georgetown's shooting improve, the Hoyas ending the game with 25-66 shooting (38%) while West Virginia stayed about the same with 22-68 shooting (32%).

The big differences, again, were three-point shooting and free throws. Georgetown lit up the skies with 8-18 from beyond the arc, while West Virginia never made another trey, ending up 1-13 (8%).

At the line, West Virginia made up for it, going 26-37, while Georgetown wound up 12-21. The Mountaineers barely outrebounded the Hoyas 48-45, but they more than made up for it, keeping the key turnovers down to 11 as opposed to Georgetown's 16.

It was a double-double for Eartha White. She led the Mountaineers in scoring with 21 points on 8-13 shooting and a decent (winning) 5-9 from the charity stripe. In addition, she grabbed 13 rebounds and played with three fouls for most of the second half. Her only relief in the game was in the first half, when Mary Grace Carson stepped up to the task and scored four on 2-2 shooting.

White was tied in scoring by Sherell Sowho, who came back from a poor showing at St. John's to score 21 on 6-19 shooting, grabbing eight rebounds. Yolanda Paige had 15 points on 5-14 shooting, including 5-6 from the line, and eight rebounds.

Zsophia Horvath had four points and three rebounds, getting a good amount of playing time in the place of Batch and holding Rebekka Brunson to two field goals after she had four in the first. Batch went 0-5 from the field for three points, and Kate Bulger had an awful showing, going 1-13 for three points.

It's amazing West Virginia won the rebounding battle, but that's what a team effort will do. Brunson alone dominated the boards with 18 rebounds. She shared the lead for the Hoyas in scoring as well, with 18 points. Lisicky scored the other 18, shooting 6-15 overall, 5-13 from beyond the arc. Nok Duany and Lesley Walker had 13 each, with Walker playing in her 114th straight game, a school record. The only other Hoya scorers were Zsuzsanna Horvath (no relation to Zsophia) and Christina Besozzi, who had four each.

The bottom line: West Virginia got a big win in a close game against a well-matched opponent. Don't look at the Hoyas record. Sure, they're 11-11 now, 3-8 in conference play. But, consider this: they started out 9-2 before losing Brunson, their leader in nearly every category, for eight games to a stress fracture injury. This was a 100% Hoya team, something that hasn't been seen in the Big East for awhile.

This was a total team effort for West Virginia. For the first time this season, the Mountaineers were able to hold steady in the absence of both Batch and Bulger. It was nice to see some other players step up and bat for the Mountaineers. Maybe the bench just got a little deeper.

Mike Carey deserves to be Big East Coach of the Year. You heard it here first. The Mountaineers are now 13-8, 5-5 in the conference, the most wins they have seen since the 19-12 1996-97 season. This is a tremendous turnaround from the seeming hopelessness of 1999-2001.

There is no denying this team has grown throughout the year, coming back to be competitive in nearly every game, taking three top-25 teams to the wire and coming back from sometimes large deficits in countless victories.

The defense has gotten better and the turnovers have gone down, and, now, some players are filling in well when others are down. WVU is one win away from securing at least a .500 record for the year, and it looks like it might be better than that. Vote Mike Carey Coach of the Year, get a Mountaineer Rookie of the Year, and, if she can come back, put Bulger on the Big East 1st team.

West Virginia hits the road this weekend to face Seton Hall on Sunday afternoon.

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