Lightning Doesn't Strike Twice

In an eerie echo of the men's excruciating loss to Louisville, the West Virginia women's basketball team relinquished a 22-point lead to Kentucky on Monday night and fell behind in the first overtime period. However, this time, the ending was much happier.

After falling behind the Wildcats in both the waning minutes of the game and the first overtime, WVU rallied to secure an 80-75 double overtime win over UK. The win, the first over Kentucky in West Virginia history, puts West Virginia into the championship game of the Women's NIT.

Meg Bulger was outstanding for West Virginia, recording a double double with 31 points and 11 rebounds. Bulger was 4-9 on three point attempts as she helped steady the Mountaineers down the stretch and in the overtime sessions.

Sherell Sowho helped get West Virginia off to a good start, scoring eight of the Mountaineers' first 13 points. WVU raced out to an early 13-2 lead, and slowly built that advantage to 16 at 38-22 late in the first half. They held a 14-point lead at halftime, but the Wildcats weren't knocked out yet.

West Virginia built its lead to 49-27 in the first three minutes of the second half, and with 16:44 to go, looked to be in control. Then came the collapse, which let the Wildcats back into the game. The Mountaineers endured an almost unbelievable scoreless stretch of 11:34, which allowed UK cut the lead to six at 49-43. A Sherell Sowho three-pointer finally ended the drought at the 5:10 mark, but the momentum remained on the side of the homestanding Wildcats. UK continued to gnaw away at the Mountaineer lead, and finally gained the upper hand at 53-52 on a Sarah Elliot layup with 2:31 to play.

At that point, Bulger took matters into her own hands. The outstanding sophomore hit a layup with 2:02 to go to put WVU back on top at 54-53, then answered a Kentucky score with a three-pointer to put the Mountaineers ahead by two at 57-55. The teams then traded single free throws, and UK tied it on a Sara Potts jumper with eight seconds to go. WVU then turned the ball over, giving the Cats a chance to win it in regulation, but a missed three-pointer at the buzzer sent the game into overtime.

West Virginia jumped out to an early four-point lead in the first overtime, but UK scored five consecutive points to regain the advantage at 63-62. The Mountaineers then converted three of six free throws over the next 1:11 to lead by two, and WVU still lead by one with 16 seconds to go. Bulger and Potts again figured prominently at the end, as the former made one free throw to give West Virginia a 66-64 lead. However, she missed the second, and worse, fouled Potts after the UK star rebounded the ball. Potts made both free throws to tie the game, and a Yolanda Paige runner at the buzzer wouldn't drop, leading to a second overtime.

The Mountaineers again got off to a good start early in the second overtime, and this time West Virginia would not relinquish the lead. WVU scored the first six points of the second extra session, and although UK was able to cut that margin in half on a Potts trey with nine seconds to play, Bulger calmly nailed two free throws with eight seconds to go to put the game away.

Sowho finished with 21 points and five rebounds, and Paige also contributed a double-double with 10 points and 12 assists. Paige, who also collected seven rebounds, played all 50 minutes of the game, while Bulger got only a brief rest, as she was on the floor for 48 minutes. Chakia Cole chipped in nine points and 12 rebounds.

WVU will meet the winner of Southwest Missouri State and Iowa for the WNIT Championship on Thursday evening.


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