March 7, 2004
By DONNA TOMMELLEO
AP Sports Writer
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - West Virginia's breakout season will continue for at least one more game.
The Mountaineers have their first 20-win season in 12 years, set a school season record for 3-pointers (188) and landed in their first ever Big East tournament semifinal with a 58-47 upset over No. 23 Villanova.
Yolanda Paige scored 16 points and Michelle Carter had 15 and 12 rebounds Sunday in the win as the Mountaineers ended the Wildcats' bid to repeat as champions.
The sixth-seeded Mountaineers (21-9) dominated inside and play seventh-seeded Rutgers, which advanced earlier Sunday with a 51-45 win over Notre Dame.
"We really needed this game," West Virginia coach Mike Carey said. "We knew coming into this game that if we wanted to go to the NCAA tournament then we needed to win this game."
The Mountaineers won the game without hitting a single 3-pointer. Kate Bulger, the league's all-time leading 3-point shooter had the only attempt from behind the arc.
It was the first time since 1995 the Wildcats (22-6) did not win more than one game in the tournament. Villanova won the title last year with a stunning win over Connecticut, snapping the Huskies' NCAA-best 70-game win streak.
Paige, the Mountaineers' speedy guard, was coming off a career performance against St. John's in an 84-59 first-round win. She had 22 points, 13 assists and a career-high eight steals. The steals were a tournament record.
"She is so fast," Villanova's Courtney Mix said of Paige. "When you play a step off of her and she starts hitting jump shots, it is nearly impossible to guard her."
Betsy McManus had a career-high 14 points for the third-seeded Wildcats, who
shot just 23 percent in the second half after leading 26-23 at the break.
Paige and Carter each had four points in an 11-6 run to open the second half to give the Mountaineers a 34-32 lead with 14:47 left. Villanova's Kate Dessart Mager countered with a jumper to tie it, but it was all Mountaineers after that.
The Wildcats missed their next 13 shots over an eight-minute period and Carter grabbed most of those rebounds for West Virginia. The Mountaineers pulled away with a 12-0 run in that same span, fueled by seven points from Paige.
"They're a good opposite team," Villanova coach Harry Perretta said. "They spread you out with a lot of 3-point shooters on the perimeter. They are a bad matchup for a lot of teams."
Led by Carter, the Mountaineers outrebounded Villanova 45-25. Janell Dunlap and Meg Bulger grabbed eight boards each for West Virginia. Bulger also finished with 10 points.
McManus scored 10 of her points in a 14-6 first-half run as Villanova led by as many as seven in the period.
"We're doing really well right now," Paige said. "We played a great game but now we're focused on Rutgers."