Clamping Down

West Virginia's women's basketball team took another big step toward an NCAA at-large bid by putting the defensive clamps on Cincinnati in a 61-49 win at the WVU Coliseum.

WVU's sticky man-to-man never let the Bearcats get untracked as the Mountaineers moved to 19-9 on the season and 10-5 in the Big East. UC was held to a cold 16-52 from the field (30.8%), and made just 5-19 from three-point range. The Bearcats managed just six field goals in the second half.

After trading baskets and scores early, WVU slowly pushed out to an 11-point lead midway through the first half. UC rallied to cut the deficit to three, but another steady run left the Mountaineers with a ten-point lead at the break. A potential UC field goal that would have cut the margin to eight was ruled, after video replay, to have come after the buzzer to end the first half, which left the Mountaineers with a 39-29 lead. Yinka Sanni was dominant in the opening 20 minutes, scoring 16 points against a Bearcat squad that had no answer for her power moves inside.

The second half was a story of maintenance, as West Virginia never allowed the visitors to cut the margin to fewer than eight. While the Mountaineers missed several chances to put the game away early, they were also never seriously threatened as the recorded their tenth league win, which ties for the most in the Mike Carey era at WVU.

Sanni, who scored her 1,000th career point on a first half free throw, finished with 22 and seven rebounds. Forward Chakhia Cole tallied 18 and five, as the pair again established the one-two punch that has pushed the Mountaineers into pursuit of a first round bye in the Big East tournament. Sparkle Davis added 11 points.

In addition to the scorers, point guard Ashley Powell continued to show maturation as she ran an effective floor game. Powel ran the offense calmly and conservatively in the second half as the Mountaineers efficiently milked the clock. Powell finished with five assists against just one turnover, and although she did not score, was instrumental in helping to secure the win.

West Virginia now has a quick turnaround, as it travels to Louisville for the final game of the regular season on Monday, Feb. 26. The Mountaineers look to be headed for a number five seed in the Big East tournament, but a win over the Cardinals coupled with a Notre Dame loss to DePaul could give them a bye in the first round.

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