MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Merely reaching overtime felt like a victory for the West Virginia women, who scrambled to erase a four-point deficit in the final 23 seconds of regulation.
“It’s our game now,” Mike Carey told his team before it pulled out a 75-70 thriller against Villanova in a WNIT quarterfinal at the WVU Coliseum.
Averee Fields finished with 22 points and 12 rebounds for West Virginia (22-14), which was down six with 2:53 remaining and trailed 62-58 after Villanova’s Katherine Coyer made two free throws with 30 seconds left in regulation.
However, Linda Stepney’s layup and steal put WVU in position to tie, which it did on Bria Holmes’ layup with 13 seconds left. When Caroline Coyer couldn’t convert a last-second jumper on the opposite end, the Mountaineers forced the extra session to the delight of 2,509 fans.
That’s where Fields took over, scoring West Virginia’s first six points. Her senior classmate Stepney added four free throws to finish with 11 points, four assists and four steals.
“It was a great team effort and our seniors weren’t ready to go home,” Carey said. “I thought the effort by the seniors down the stretch was really good. We were fortunate to win the game. It was a great crowd. We couldn’t have come back from five down without the crowd.”
Emily Leer paced Villanova (22-14) with 29 points, going 6-of-10 from 3-point range, but it wasn’t enough to stop the Mountaineers, who will host Temple on Wednesday at 7 p.m.—their fourth consecutive postseason home game.
Villanova coach Harry Perretta lamented his team letting the win slip away at the end of the second half.
“We were in position to win and we screwed it up in the end,” he said. “But it was an enjoyable game. I thought it was great to come back to West Virginia again, and it was a typical West Virginia-Villanova game from years ago.”
Holmes scored 17 points with five assists and Crystal Leary chipped in eight points and a season-high 11 rebounds for West Virginia, which shot 42.6 percent from the field. Villanova made 41.3 percent overall, but aside from Leer, the rest of the Wildcats were 3-of-18 from 3-point range.
“Villanova is tough to guard and they’re pretty good,” Carey said.
The Mountaineers out-rebounded the Wildcats 47-34 and led 18-9 in second-chance scoring.