Shot Down

For one half, West Virginia and Southwest Missouri State played as good, and as evenly, as any two teams possibly could. The second half, however, was a different story, as SMS broke out of the gate early and nabbed a 78-70 victory in the Women's NIT championship game.

The Mountaineers and Lady Bears played outstanding basketball in the first half, trading baskets and playing with intensity that matched any men's contest. WVU took a 36-35 lead into the locker room at the half on the strength of Yolanda Paige's twisting jumper, which seemed to set the stage for a classic battle for the WNIT championship.

The Mountaineers led for almost the entire first half, and hoped to continue that trend after the break, but SMS had other ideas. The Bears came out smoking in the second half, and West Virginia appeared to be a step slow on defense, allowing the home team just enough room on the perimeter to launch their trademark three-pointers. And to their credit, SMS took advantage of the openings, hitting five consecutive threes during a 23-5 run to open a 14 point lead midway through the half.

Although WVU was able to keep the game reasonably close, they never threatened SMS after that, which allowed the Bears to win their first WNIT title. The Bears were 11-29 from three-point range, and sewed up the game at the foul line, where they went 15-18.

For WVU, Yolanda Paige capped her career with another double-double, scoring 22 points and dishing out ten assists. Chakia Cole added 17 points and five rebounds, while Meg Bulger, who was whistled for three fouls in the space of 30 seconds, chipped in with 16 and five.

Paige finished her stellar career with 1,414 points and 902 assists, while Sherell Sowho wrapped up her Mountaineer tenure with 1,491 points. WVU starters Paige, Sowho, Bulger and Chakia Cole played 154 of a possible 160 minutes.

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