Women Fall to UConn In Regular Season Finale

It was a noble effort, but in the end, the University of Connecticut Huskies are the best team in the country, and they proved it on Tuesday evening.

The Huskies looked at the West Virginia women's basketball like just another number - 68. The Mountaineers played tough, but yielded early to the Huskies and couldn't work the magic it would take to come back, as UConn took home the 78-58 victory in front of 16,000+ fans in Hartford.

As has been the case in several recent losses, the Mountaineers had difficulty containing the Huskies' inside game on defense. This, paired with another Mountaineer trademark in their losses this season - a 22-0 UConn run that put the #1 team out in front 27-6 with 8:40 to go in the first half - sealed WVU's fate early.

But, not all was lost. West Virginia did hold tight in the first four minutes of the game and actually managed to match UConn nearly point-for-point the rest of the way. The Mountaineer just weren't able to shake the butterflies out soon enough to make a full game of it.

West Virginia took a 6-5 lead on a follow-up score by Eartha White. But, UConn quickly responded with Diana Taurasi's first two to take the lead for good at 7-6 with 15:42 left in the first half. That sparked the 22-0 run that saw Taurasi and Jessica Moore come alive to score 14 points. The 27-6 margin, happily enough for the Mountaineers, was the largest deficit in the game.

WVU finally got back on the board with 8:40 left on a field goal by Janell Dunlap. After another bucket by Moore, Kate Bulger scored her first three pointer of the game (after missing six of her first seven shots) to make the score 31-13. Bulger chipped away at the lead with another five, and Michelle Carter got a bucket to close the score to 14 at 34-20 with 3:30 left. The Huskies at that point decided 14 was as close as the Mountaineers should be, again looking to Moore and Taurasi to pull back out to a 42-23 lead at halftime.

At the half, the problems were evident for the Mountaineers. Jessica Moore went virtually untouched on the inside for the entire first half, scoring 16 points on 7-10 shooting, 2-4 from the line. The Huskies had out-rebounded the Mountaineers, 27-13, and scored 28 points in the paint to WVU's 6. Further, although WVU had plenty of open looks at the basket, the shots just weren't falling, as their 9-32 numbers from the field attest.

The second half really saw the Mountaineers continue their "comeback", as the half opened with a 4-0 WVU run to close the score to 42-27 and shooting 3-4 from the floor. Again, the Huskies didn't like the Mountaineers getting close, so Ann Strother hit a bucket to pull back out to a 17 point edge. Kate Bulger responded with another three-pointer, but Diana Taurasi wouldn't be outdone, hitting one of her own. Again, Bulger responded with three, but Maria Conlon this time got in on the act with three.

West Virginia managed to chip the lead all the way down to 13 and looked to finally have the momentum back, but on the ensuing possession, Taurasi eliminated almost all hopes of a comeback by hitting a three-pointer from well beyond the arc to pull the lead back out to 16 at 59-43 with less than ten minutes to go. UConn would manage to respond to every WVU basket (and then some) from that point on to take the 20 point victory.

The Mountaineers, as evident by the score play-by-play, did manage to improve in the second half by not giving up any big runs. They got their shooting percentage up to 33% by hitting 15-32 for the half. They committed fewer turnovers for the game than the Huskies, 13 to 15, but were still out-rebounded, 51-29.

Kate Bulger led WVU with a game-high 25 points on 10-20 shooting, 5-9 from beyond the arc. This was Kate's 21st career 20+ point game, tying her with Lisa Szymczak for sixth on WVU's all-time list, this after garnering Big East co-player of the week honors for her performances against St. John's and Syracuse.

Bulger was followed by Michelle Carter, the only other Mountaineer in double figures, with 12 points on 5-15 shooting and six rebounds. Carter played well in the second half, shooting 3-7 from the field, but it was her inability to get going in the first that really hurt the Mountaineers on offense.

Yolanda Paige scored six and dished out another 10 assists. Eartha White scored five and pulled down a team-high ten rbeounds. Grace Carson, in her final regular-season game as a Mountaineer, made a surprising contribution with four points, all in the second half, on 2-2 shooting. Ashely Dunn and Latitia Williams scored two each.

UConn, now 29-0, 16-0, and on a 68-game winning streak, was led by Jessica Moore, who scored 24 on 11-14 shooting and grabbed nine rebounds. Taurasi was close behind with 20 points on 7-16 shooting.

West Virginia finishes its regular season with a 15-12 record, 4-12 in Big East conference play. The good news is, the Mountaineers get to continue their season in the Big East tournament next Saturday because the Villanova Wildcats rolled over Providence 83-48. Hopefully, the never-say-die atttitude shown by the Mountaineers this evening will roll over into the first round of the tournament, much like it did after a loss to Rutgers in a win over Miami a couple of weeks ago.

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