The West Virginia women's basketball team executed down the stretch to defeat Villanova 61-56 Saturday in its first BIG EAST home game this season.
The Mountaineers (11-4, 2-1) led from the opening minutes, but a Rachel Roberts' 3-pointer with 1:29 left brought the Wildcats (11-4, 2-1) within four. WVU turned the ball over on the following possession and fouled when Villanova converted 1-of-2 free throws for a three-point game (59-56) and 47 seconds to play. Villanova was forced to foul to buy time and Asya Bussie sank both free throw attempts to seal the win for the Mountaineers.
"That is probably the most points that we have scored on them in about two or three years. If we would have made our foul shots and some of the layups we had over top, we would have been in the 70s," coach Mike Carey said. "Our girls played hard. That is a tough team to guard. They are shooting threes. A couple of those girls shot threes really well, but our girls did well seeing it.
"Even our sophomores, Taylor (Palmer) and Jess (Harlee) and all of them who didn't play a lot against Villanova last year as freshmen. For the first time seeing them, they did a good job. (Ayana) Dunning and Asya (Bussie) did a good job together in that high-low. Like I said, we missed some bunnies and we missed some foul shots but we were able to get that all night when we needed to get it. Brooke Hampton also did a good job."
Hampton led four WVU players in double figures as she had 18 points on 6-of-8 shooting including four 3-pointers. Bussie, Christal Caldwell and Ayana Dunning each chipped in another 10 points. Jess Harlee neared double digits as she recorded eight points.
Overall, WVU shot 40.8 percent (20-49) from the field, while Villanova was 37.5 percent (21-56). The Wildcats put up more 3-pointers than any other opponent for West Virginia this season as they shot 40.7 percent (11-27) from beyond the arc with 11 threes made. The Mountaineers shot 53.8 percent from 3-point range on 7-of-13 shooting.
The Mountaineers had the advantage from the charity stripe as WVU shot 60.9 percent (14-23), while the Wildcats only had four attempts from the free throw line, converting 75 percent.
WVU took advantage on the glass, out-rebounding Villanova 42-27. Dunning led all players on the boards with nine rebounds, while Caldwell pulled down eight rebounds.
"First of all, it was a very good game," Villanova coach Harry Perretta said. "It was very enjoyable. Bottom line that it came down to was unfortunately what I thought it was going to come down to: rebounding the ball. We are not a good rebounding team and we have to make 3-pointers to make up for that and we only outscored them by four 3-pointers in the game, and for us to win, we are going to have to outscore our opponents by probably seven to eight 3-pointers."
Villanova was led in scoring by Roberts, who had 18 points, including four threes. Emily Leer and Megan Pearson added 14 and 13 points, respectively. Laura Sweeney led the Wildcats in rebounding with six.
"We always concern ourselves with their defense because of how aggressive they are on defense," Perretta said. "Since we are a motion team, we spend a lot of time trying to create motion against their defense. We do spend time obviously with their new players but for us, it is more about their defense. That is the strongest part of their game is their defense."
WVU returns to action for a 7 p.m. tip with Seton Hall on Tuesday, Jan. 10 at the WVU Coliseum.