Don't take this "pesky" thing the wrong way - the Raiders were never in the game. But, their ability to score more than their fair share of easy baskets on backdoor cuts and not allow the Mountaineers to take more decisive control of the game proved annoying enough for this fan to throw, at least in his head, a Mike Carey-esque outburst during halftime of this evening's matchup.
The Raiders entered the game at 1-5, and, despite the effort by the radio announcers to hype up the five losses they had already experienced this season, were clearly overmatched against a larger, deeper, and better shooting team from the Big East.
West Virginia jumped to an 8-0 lead on baskets by four of the starting five (two of those points were on free throws), and the closest the game would ever get after that was six points when Tiffany Webb made the score 8-2. The gap remained around ten for the rest of the half as West Virginia's post game took control. Michelle Carter put in ten and Liz Holbrook came off the bench to score six before halftime, but the play on the outside was not what Mountaineer fans have become accustomed to this year.
Bulger was cold - she shot 3-9 from the field for the first half, including 1-6 from beyond the arc - to go into the locker room with seven points. Yolanda Paige, on the other hand, took advantage of Wright State's defense, which tried to force her to shoot and stop her passes - either way, it didn't work. Paige had eight points on 4-5 shooting, five assists, and no turnovers at the half. The halftime score was a respectable, but not spectacular, 41-28.
Things improved a bit in the second half. Bulger found her touch, scoring the first five points for West Virginia, and Wright State's shooting ace, Tiffany Webb, found herself riding the bench after she committed her fourth personal foul with over 19:00 left in the game. The result? West Virginia was able to pull away by as much as a 65-37 margin before Coach Carey put in his reserves and the Raiders finished the game with a 16-6 run to the 71-53 final.
Bulger, after the rough start, finished the game just above her 18.1 scoring average with 19 points on 8-18 shooting, including 3-8 from three point range, and six rebounds. For the record, the 19 points moves Kate to 968 for her career, and she now has 157 career three-pointers, just 11 behind Rebecca Burbridge for second on WVU's all-time list.
Right behind Bulger was Michelle Carter, who scored 16 on 7-11 shooting with seven rebounds. Yolanda Paige rounded out the Mountaineer double figure scorers with 10 points on 5-7 shooting, dishing out 11 assists and committing only one turnover in 30 minutes.
Sherell Sowho had a slower night than usual with nine points, Liz Holbrook got quiet in the second half and wound up with six, Eartha White had seven, while Janell Dunlap and Kristen Kilgore each scored two.
Wright State was led by Tiffany Webb, who wound up with 18 points on 8-23 shooting after entering the game with an average of 25 per game. Angie Ott scored 11 on on 5-9 shooting. For the record, my fellow Fairmont Senior High graduate Dori Glance played eight minutes in her homecoming game and pulled down a rebound.
The Mountaineers shot 55% from the field compared to 35% for the Raiders, but turned the ball over 20 times to Wright State's 19.
West Virginia improved its record to 8-0 with the biggest non-conference match of the season coming this Saturday at home against Duquesne. The Dukes are 6-1 with quality wins over James Madison, Pitt, and Toledo. It's easy to say 2/3 of the way through, but Duquesne is most likely all that stands between the Mountaineers and an 11-0 non-conference record. West Virginia won last year's game in overtime, 84-81.
For those of you venturing to Morgantown to see the men take on Tennessee on Saturday, I ask you to stick around. As I've said, this is the biggest game of the early season and the last at home for almost three weeks before a biggie against Notre Dame. This team could use the help of a good crowd, and I'm sure they would appreciate it as much as I would.
All I want for Christmas is 9-0.