The eighth-seeded West Virginia women’s basketball team defeated the ninth-seeded Texas 68-55 on Saturday to advance to the second round of the NCAA tournament for the seventh time in program history.
The Mountaineers (24-9) led by as many as 15, 48-33, with 12:23 remaining, but the Longhorns (18-14) never gave up, using a 9-0 scoring run to pull within three, 51-48 with 5:40 left.
Sophomore Taylor Palmer hit a 3-pointer with 3:41 on the clock to spark a 7-2 run and stretch the lead back out to 61-50 with 2:18 remaining. WVU continued with the momentum, making seven of its final eight free throws to seal the win.
“Taylor Palmer is our shooter,” said head coach Mike Carey. “I was kidding her after the game because she only played 25 minutes and took 16 shots but if she played 40 minutes she would have taken 52 shots. That is what she does though; she is a great player and she hit a really big shot for us.”
Off the bench, Palmer paved the way for West Virginia with 18 points, tying West Virginia’s NCAA Tournament record of 3-point field goals with four. The record was previously set by Liz Repella during last year’s second round game against Baylor. The Mountaineer bench contributed 34 points behind Palmer’s 18 with nine from Averee Fields and seven from Brooke Hampton.
Palmer was followed by Asya Bussie who scored 12 points and pulled down six rebounds, and by Jess Harlee who had her second career double-double with 10 points and a team-leading 10 rebounds against the Longhorns.
Harlee became the seventh player in program history to record a double-double in an NCAA Tournament game.
“She (Harlee) plays with so much heart and the team feeds off of her,” Carey said. “She sacrifices herself every play and she really knows her role on the court. She has the discipline to take good shots, move the ball, and open it up for some other people. She is also our stopper when we need to make a stop on the perimeter.”
West Virginia never trailed in the win, improving to 7-7 all time in NCAA Tournament games. The Mountaineers shot 48 percent in the outing (24-50), while limited Texas to 27.9 percent (19-68).
Texas was led by Ashley Gayle with 11 points and 10 rebounds. Ashleigh Fontenette followed with 10 points and Chassidy Fussel chipped in eight.
WVU advances to face the winner of Saturday’s Stanford-Hampton matchup on Monday, March 19 at 7 p.m. at the Ted Constant Center. Monday’s game will air live nationally on ESPN2 and all games will be available online at ESPN3.com.