MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – With four games left in the regular season, coming into tonight’s crucial BIG EAST Conference women’s basketball game at West Virginia, the University of South Florida knew it didn’t have much time to waste if it wanted to make a push in the league standings as it jockey’s for seeding position for the BIG EAST Tournament, while also staying in the NCAA Tournament conversation. The Bulls were coming off a tough loss on Tuesday night at home against Notre Dame, however, play three of their final four games on the road, a place where they posted a 3-2 conference record coming into tonight’s game with the Mountaineers – the first of a two-game road trip.
Well, USF couldn’t take advantage of their opportunity as West Virginia snapped its three-game BIG EAST road winning streak with a 90-75 win over the Bulls at WVU Coliseum in front of a crowd of 6,232, the third largest to ever see a women’s basketball home game. The loss drops the Bulls’ record to 18-9 and 5-8 in conference play.
The Mountaineers jumped out quickly and looked like they were going to take control of the game from the start. West Virginia took a fast 7-0 lead just one minute and 40 seconds into the game on two field goals and by Takisha Granberry and a three-pointer by Liz Repella.
The Mountaineers would extend their lead to as many as 12 points, 20-8, with 12:56 left in the first half on a trey by Alex Sanabria off an assist by Repella.
The Bulls, however, would finally settle down and get back in the game using a 10-2 run, following the Sanabria three, to cut the lead to two points, 22-20, on a lay-up by Porche Grant off her only offensive rebound of the half with 8:13 left before the break.
After West Virginia pushed its edge back up to as many as seven points twice in the last three minutes, USF would cut the lead to two, again, 39-37, on a jumper by Jessica Lawson in the paint with 58 seconds left in the half. The Mountaineers, however, would hit two-back-to-back treys before taking a six-point, 45-39, lead into the locker room at the break.
Repella and Granberry led the way for West Virginia in the first half pouring in 18 and 12 points apiece. Shantia Grace had 10 points for the Bulls in the first stanza.
After starting the game cold, USF would finish the half hitting 46.7 percent (14-30) from the field in the first 20 minutes while the Mountaineers were 17-43 (39.5 percent) from the floor, including 50 percent (8-16) from behind the arc.
In the second half, the Bulls would come out and cut the West Virginia lead to four points, twice, first at 49-45 with 17:45 left on a three-point play by Lawson, and then with 16:50 left on the clock on a lay-up by Lawson off an assist from Grace to make the score 51-47. USF, however, would not get any closer the rest of the way.
The Mountaineers would eventually extend their lead to as many as 17 points, 90-73, with 49 seconds before settling on the final margin.
Lawson led the way for USF with 22 points, three shy of tying her career high, 12 rebounds and a career-high seven blocked shots. Her double-double was the fourth of the season, the eighth of her career at USF, and the ninth of her collegiate career including her time at California.
Grace also recorded double figures with 17 points and Jazmine Sepulveda had 10 points in the loss.
Repella finished the game with 34 points and 13 rebounds, and Ashley Powell and Granberry added 19 and 13 points respectively.
As a team, the Bulls finished the game shooting 42.2 percent (27-64) from the field, however just 27.3 percent (6-22) from behind the arc.
Defensively, USF set a school record, and a WVU Coliseum record - for opponents - for blocked shots in a game with 17. That total also tied a BIG EAST Conference mark for rejections in a game.
The Bulls will now travel to the “Windy City” where they will close out their two-game road trip on Feb. 24 at 8 p.m. EST)/7 p.m. (CST) against DePaul.