The West Virginia women’s basketball team limited No. 12/14 Georgetown to tournament record-low 10 field goals and only 14.7 percent shooting to come away with a 39-32 win and advance to the semifinals of the BIG EAST Championship Sunday at the XL Center.
“I want to give our girls credit,” coach Mike Carey said. “We didn’t get shook up. We continued to play defense. We didn’t let our offense affect our defense, so that was key.”
Georgetown tied the record for fewest points scored in a BIG EAST tournament game (32) also set by Villanova against Rutgers on March 5, 2000. The Mountaineers (23-8) held Sugar Rodgers, the league’s scoring leader entering the game with 19.1 points per game, to 14 points as she made 5-of-20 field goal attempts. The Hoyas (22-8) become the fifth top-25 ranked team WVU has defeated this season.
“The thing with Sugar, she gets a lot of her threes on transition, and Jess Harlee did an excellent job,” Carey said. “That’s one thing we kept working on. Go find Sugar Rodgers. I don’t care if you have somebody else stop the ball, go find Rodgers and don’t let her have the three on transition. So I thought she stayed focused 40 minutes defensively.”
Both teams struggled offensively as West Virginia shot only 25 percent (13-52) and entered the locker room at half with a 15-12 lead. It was the second-lowest team scores combined point total for a half in BIG EAST tournament history.
WVU took its first double-digit lead when Taylor Palmer hit a three with 9:47 left, making the score 28-18. Her confidence from beyond the arc continued as she followed that three with two consecutive threes, allowing WVU to maintain double figures, 34-24, with 6:54. Georgetown tried to buy time by fouling and the Mountaineers missed eight consecutive free throws down to the 13-second mark, however Georgetown missed its last 19 shot attempts, which allowed WVU to come away with the win.
“Taylor Palmer coming in and hitting those threes was really big for us to open up the lead a little bit,” Carey said. “Then with our defense, we were able to keep the lead.”
Palmer led the Mountaineers in scoring with 11 points off the bench. Asya Bussie recorded nine points, including the 1,000th point of her career which came at the 10:57 mark of the first half on a free throw. She was 5-of-11 from the free throw line and led all players in rebounding with a career-best 13 rebounds. Akilah Bethel chipped in seven points and grabbed three steals in 17 minutes.
The teams matched one another with 51 rebounds each and each recorded nine points from the free throw line, however, the Hoyas were 60 percent (9-15), while WVU converted 37.5 percent (9-24).
The Mountaineers advance to the semifinals for the fifth time in program history and will face the No.1 seed Notre Dame on Monday, March 5 at 6 p.m. on ESPNU. WVU defeated Notre Dame 65-63 on their home court for the Mountaineers’ biggest win in program history as the Fighting Irish were then-ranked No. 2/2 in the regular season. The only time the teams met in BIG EAST tournament history, Notre Dame took a 70-59 win as the No. 2 seed, while WVU was the No. 7 seed in the quarterfinal round in 2005.