The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

February 6, 2011

Pitt spoils WVU women’s rally, pulls out 60-53 victory

MORGANTOWN — Everything seemed to be in place for an incredible comeback for the West Virginia University women’s basketball team Saturday afternoon against Backyard Brawl rival Pitt.

They had erased all of what had once been a 15-point lead, came roaring from behind before 8,025 frenzied fans, the fourth-largest crowd ever for WVU women’s basketball, and even taken a four-point lead.

There was no reason to believe they could not protect it over the final 2 minutes and 40 seconds, especially considering they had won their last 31 consecutive games in the Coliseum, last losing on Feb. 24, 2009, to – yes — Pitt.

No reason, that is, except right about then the men’s basketball team arrived from Villanova.

You might have heard by now what happened to the men there, losing 66-50 to Villanova.

Call it bad vibes. Call it negative karma. Whatever it was, the sky fell in on the Mountaineer women like ice off the roof of Cowboy Stadium and the season literally went spiraling down the drain, 60-53.

From that moment on, Pitt twice found Taneisha Harrison for 3-point baskets, allowing her to finish with 30 points, and it was over.

The first of Harrison’s 3’s was a long distance scorcher, one that led someone to ask her after the game if she realized how far away she was.

“I didn’t know where I was,” she answered. We believe she meant on the court, but as unconscious as she was throwing the ball into the hoop 12 of 16 times, she might not have known she was in Morgantown … or West Virginia, for that matter. “I was hitting for the whole game. I shot with confidence.”

Indeed, she did. On the other hand, West Virginia shot like they were blindfolded and standing before a firing squad. The performance they put on trying to get the ball in the basket was mystifyingly brutal, shooting just 30.8 percent for the game. They took 12 more shots than Pitt and made three fewer.

Madina Ali was the only one who shot with precision, hitting 5 of 7 from the floor and finishing with 13 points, which is all the more amazing considering it came in just 15 minutes on the floor. Between her bad leg and foul trouble, coach Mike Carey just couldn’t keep her there, and without her his team was listless and without life and unable to score.

The two centers, for example – Aysa Bussie and Ayana Dunning — went 0-for-10 from the floor, and if they were closely guarded the shots they were taking were not exactly 10s on a degree of difficulty.

Only Liz Repella, the senior captain, who has shed her blonde look for her original black, was a force, scoring 21 points grabbing eight rebounds, dishing out three assists, recording three steals and playing 40 minutes.

Interestingly, in that loss to Pitt 32 games ago, Repella played 39 minutes and led WVU with 16 points while Pitt’s Harrison scored only 6 that day.

“If everyone went that hard or cared as much as she does, we’d be in a better situation,” Carey said.

Repella seemed to be battling back tears when she met with the media following the game, talking about how she was trying to lead the Mountaineer comeback.

“I was trying to get people fired up,” she said. “We need more energy. It just hasn’t been there. We have to find it or we are going to continue to get beat.”

Certainly, Carey is perplexed, especially about what happens when Ali leaves the floor.

“We need her in there,” he said. “When she’s gone we get no energy from the 4 spot. I’m going to start using some kids in there to try and get some energy.”

So now it’s back to the drawing board for Carey, who has got another rather challenging task in front of him, so challenging that he could make light of it.

“The good thing is we’ve got to play UConn on Tuesday,” he said.

Someone wondered if it was good because by now they have the Huskies, defending national champions, overconfident.

“We have everyone in the league overconfident,” Carey said.

E-mail Bob Hertzel at bhertzel@hotmail.com.

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