West Virginia looked as if it would come out of the gate and be competitive in this game, but their good play was short-lived. Tied at 8-8 just five minutes into the game, Syracuse went on a 14-2 run to pull away to a 22-10 lead.
The Mountaineers would close the lead back under ten a few minutes later on Kate Bulger's 74th three-pointer of the season, 24-15, and then climb within seven on a field goal by Sherell Sowho soon thereafter.
Syracuse responded with six straight points and the game was never within ten again. The halftime score was 44-25.
It was readily evident early on that the Mountaineers had several problems that would need to be corrected in order to even be competitive. The Orangewomen held a 30-17 rebounding advantage at the half, 15-5 on the offensive boards, which resulted in an 18-6 edge in second chance points.
The Mountaineers also turned the ball over 11 times in the half against five for the Orangewomen. Furthermore, sophomore guard Julie McBride could not be stopped in the first half, scoring 19 points. In the meantime, Mary Grace Carson, not known for her scoring prowess, led the Mountaineers in scoring with six at the half.
The second half was played in somewhat-typical Mountaineer fashion. They didn't manage a comeback to win per se, but they did yield more points to the Orangewomen before "coming back" to keep the final score a 20-point deficit. A positive that could be drawn from the second half was the ability of the Mountaineer defense to hold McBride, a third-team all-Big East selection to three points and sophomore Jaime James, also a third-team selection, to five points for the whole game.
West Virginia was led in scoring by Sherell Sowho and Brandi Batch who scored 15 points each. Sowho shot 4-14 from the field before fouling out with three minutes left in the game. Batch shot 6-11 and finishes her career 19th on West Virginia's all-time scoring list.
Sowho and Batch were followed by Kate Bulger with 13, 5-17 from the field. Bulger, for the record, finished the season with 76 three-point field goals, second all-time for a single season to Christie Lambert's 83 in 1995. Yolanda Paige had seven points and nine assists. Mary Grace Carson had six points, and Eartha White had four.
Syracuse was led by the strong first half of Julie McBride. She finished the game with 22 points on 7-19 shooting. Shannon Perry came off the bench for her 10th career double-double, 15 points and 12 rebounds on 3-5 shooting (9-11 from the line). Jazmine Wright scored 11 points and eight rebounds for the Orangewomen.
The win was the first for Syracuse in the postseason since, ironically, defeating West Virginia in the first round of the 1996 Big East Tournament, 95-78. The Orangewomen advance to 17-11 (10-7) on the season and will face #2 seed Notre Dame tomorrow. West Virginia will finish its season at .500, 14-14 (6-11), a tremendous turnaround from the basement-dwelling season of one year ago.
Stealing a line from the WWF, I'd have to say that "The People's" Coach of the Year, Mike Carey, has executed a turnaround that nobody could have ever imagined going into last November.
As we head into a long off-season (not so long now with great expectations), I remind myself of a motto from a certain NASCAR team that I think will fit well into next year. Let's tuck it into our shirt pockets and polish it off as we head into November, whipping it out for what should be another memorable year of Mountaineer women's basketball:
Refuse to Lose.