West Virginia 62, St. Bonaventure 53
OLEAN, N.Y. (AP)—West Virginia coach Mike Carey realizes the defensive-minded Mountaineers aren’t best known for their offense.
After watching a first half in which No. 6-ranked West Virginia missed 18 of 22 attempts against St. Bonaventure, Carey also knew they couldn’t be that bad for an entire game.
Liz Repella scored 15 of her season-best 20 points in the second half as the Mountaineers (13-0) remained unbeaten after rallying to a 62-53 win over the Bonnies (9-5) on Thursday night.
In extending their best start to a season in program history, the Mountaineers overcame missing 15 of their first 16 attempts and trailed at halftime for the first time this season.
What surprised Carey was not the shooting performance, as much as what he saw walking into the locker room at the break.
“Their heads are down and I said, `Are you kidding me?”’ Carey said. “I was proud of them that they came out and executed and did what we asked of them.”
The Mountaineers responded from their first-half futility by hitting 18 of 27 attempts over the final 20 minutes, and outscoring the Bonnies 47-33.
And the Mountaineers’ defense continued to be their strength. They entered the game ranked third in the nation in allowing 46.7 points this season, and have yet to allow an opponent to score more than 58 points against them.
Armelia Horton scored 11 for St. Bonaventure, an Atlantic 10 Conference program which lost for only the second time in its past eight. Jessica Jenkins added 10 points.
Coach Jim Crowley was disappointed with the loss, but pleased with how well his team put a scare in the Mountaineers.
“I asked our kids to not back down and to play really hard and together, and we did that,” Crowley said.
The key in the first half was the Bonnies ability to get back on defense to slow West Virginia’s potent transition game.
The Bonnies led 20-15 at the break, marking the second time this season they’ve held an opponent to 15 points in the first half, also doing so in a 45-40 win at Marist on Dec. 4.
“I was really pleased. We can defend,” Crowley said. “Our goal was to not let their defense be their offense and at times in the second half they did and we couldn’t do much with that.
The Bonnies expended so much energy playing defense that it tired them out. It didn’t help that they were playing on one day of rest following a 62-54 win at Sacred Heart on Tuesday.
The Mountaineers had a reason to be rusty, playing for the first time in nine days, following a 71-39 win at North Carolina Central.
West Virginia missed its first eight shots before Repella hit a 3-point basket from the right wing 6:50 into the game to cut St. Bonaventure’s lead to 8-3. The basket didn’t do much for the Mountaineers, who then proceeded to miss their next seven attempts.
The Bonnies’ offense was nearly as terrible, finishing the first half going 6 of 22 from the field.
West Virginia finally took control in the second half by attacking the basket. Bussie played a key role in the Mountaineers’ resurgence, hitting three baskets in the first 7 1/2 minutes. West Virginia took the lead for good on Vanessa House’s layup 4:40 into the second half as part of a 10-1 run.
The Bonnies didn’t whither, but never regained the lead. Doris Ortega scored on a drive to the right post to cut the Mountaineers lead to 50-49 with 4:57 left.
West Virginia answered back with a 12-1 run in which Repella hit two 3-point baskets.
West Virginia starting point guard Sarah Miles returned after missing seven games with a left knee injury and finished with nine points and seven assists as a reserve.
The Big East defensive player of the season last year, Miles played a role in limiting Bonnies leading scorer Megan Van Tatenhove, who missed all nine attempts and finished with 6 points.
“It was definitely hard sitting out, but it’s not a big deal,” Miles said.
Then Repella chimed in to say, “We’re glad to have her back.”
Mountaineers backup guard Tonia Williams broke her nose in practice on Wednesday and did not play. She’s appeared in six games, averaging 4.3 minutes.