Trailing by 11 with 13:05 remaining, the West Virginia women's basketball team continued to battle to a 65-63 come-from-behind win over No. 2/2 Notre Dame Sunday at the Purcell Pavilion.
The last time WVU upset a top-10 ranked team on the road was a 79-70 victory over No. 5 Louisville on Feb. 7, 2009. The previous highest ranked opponent the Mountaineers had ever upset was No. 4 Rutgers, 63-54, on Jan. 29, 2008 at the WVU Coliseum.
"It's a great win for us," WVU coach Mike Carey said. "Notre Dame is a great team and they deserve to be No. 1 or No. 2 in the country. They are well coached and have great players. With that being said, I thought our players came in here, even though we're young, and got in foul trouble early and we had to play some players who don't play a lot of minutes and they did a great job. I'm very proud of our team. I thought they came in here with a tough crowd of 9,000 or more people and a great atmosphere, but our players came in and did a great job."
Down 53-44 with 8:50 remaining, the Mountaineers (18-6, 8-3) went on a 12-2 run down to the 4:38 mark for a tie at 55-55. The Fighting Irish (24-2, 11-1), who entered the contest undefeated in the BIG EAST Conference, were successful in pulling back out to five points, 62-57, with just under three minutes to play. Back-to-back Asya Bussie layups made it a one-point game, but Skylar Diggins was fouled and converted 1-of-2 at the line for a Notre Dame lead, 63-61, and 1:37 on the clock.
Ayana Dunning missed a jumper on the following possession, but Bussie was successful in grabbing the rebound and getting the put back for a 63-63 tie and 39 seconds to play. A Diggins' layup went off the backboard and down into the hands of Brooke Hampton, who was fouled at half court with only four seconds remaining. Hampton converted both free throws and a Natalie Novosel jumper clanked off the rim at the buzzer for the Mountaineer upset win.
"It was great to see [the girls never quit]. I told the girls don't quit," Carey explained. "I said I don't care if you foul out, but I better not see you quit playing hard. Just keep playing like we practice and they kept believing, believing, believing. I think our girls deserve a lot of credit to come into this atmosphere and play like we did."
Bussie paved the way with a career-best 22 points, 13 of which came in the second half. She sunk 10-of-13 free throws, put up three blocked shots and grabbed three steals. Bussie also helped the Mountaineers to a 41-33 rebounding advantage over the Fighting Irish as she led the way with eight boards.
Dunning followed Bussie's lead with 11 points and seven rebounds, while Christal Caldwell added 10 points.
With 55 total fouls called, free throws helped WVU in the battle as it was sent to the line 25 times, converting 84 percent (21-25). Notre Dame earned 16 points off free throws as it made 64 percent (16-25).
Notre Dame shot 51.9 percent in the opening half and was limited to 29.6 percent (8-27) in the second half, totaling 40.7 percent (22-54) from the field. WVU heated up from 34.6 percent (9-26) to 42.3 percent (11-26), finishing 38.5 percent from the field (20-52).
Diggins led the Fighting Irish with 32 points as she was 10-of-19 from the field and 12-of-18 from the free throw line. Novosel chipped in 16 points, including a pair of threes. Devereaux Peters dominated the boards for Notre Dame, pulling down 17 of the team's 33 total rebounds and blocking six shots.
"Notre Dame's guards are so physical and we had to sit down and get physical with them or they will just throw you out of the way and get a layup. We tried to get our guards to sit down and body them up a little bit more," Carey said.
The Mountaineers return to the court on Wednesday, Feb. 15 at 7 p.m. as they take on No. 17/16 Rutgers at the WVU Coliseum. The game will stream live on MSNsportsNET.com.
"We needed this one bad and we were able to get it," Carey said. "With that being said, when you play in the BIG EAST, we have five more games, and I told the team after the game, enjoy this, but you need to play Rutgers--another ranked team."