For the first time in West Virginia women's basketball program history, the Mountaineers have defeated three-straight top 25 teams as it took a 60-50 win from No. 21/18 Rutgers Wednesday at the WVU Coliseum.
The first of the three consecutive wins was a 66-50 win over No. 14/12 Louisville and the second was WVU's biggest upset in program history, a 65-63 victory over No. 2/2 Notre Dame. The Mountaineers' (19-6, 9-3) have now won five-straight BIG EAST contests, while handing the Scarlet Knights (17-8, 6-6) their fifth-consecutive loss.
The teams were neck-in-neck until the 3:53 mark when WVU led by one (49-48) and a Rutgers turnover gave the Mountaineers possession. A technical foul was called and Ayana Dunning sunk both free throws to put WVU up by three before Brooke Hampton sunk a 3-pointer to pull away six with 2:41 remaining. The Mountaineers never looked back and foul shots allowed WVU to pull away by as many as 12 (60-48).
"Rutgers came down here on a four-game losing streak and was hungry and really punched us in the mouth in the first half. In the second half, we punched back a little bit," WVU coach Mike Carey said. "We got their bigs out and we kept going inside every time down the floor and Yaya (Dunning) and Asya Bussie fouled their two bigs out. That is what we have to do.
"Brooke Hampton hit a big three when the score was close there in the second half and put us up six and from there we hit our foul shots down the stretch. That was good to see. I am proud of them and they continue to play hard. At halftime, we challenged them a little and they came out and played hard."
For the second consecutive game, WVU trailed by as many as 11 points and came back to take the win. The Mountaineers trailed 31-24 at halftime and used a 12-5 scoring run out of the half to reckon with the Scarlet Knights.
Christal Caldwell led all players in scoring as she recorded 16 points and pulled down seven rebounds. Asya Bussie recorded her seventh career double-double as she had 15 points and 11 rebounds. Dunning chipped in another 14 points and pulled down nine boards.
Rutgers came out shooting hot as it was 71.4 percent (15-21) from the field, but was stifled in the second half to 20.7 percent (6-29), finishing out 42 percent from the field. WVU improved from 34.5 percent (10-29) to 40 percent (10-25) for 37 percent for the game.
Neither team showed success from 3-point range as Rutgers sunk 3-of-10 threes and WVU recorded only 2-of-12. The Mountaineers took advantage from the free throw line, making 69.2 percent (18-26), while Rutgers was only sent to the line nine times, converting five for 55.6 percent.
The Scarlet Knights were led by Monique Oliver and Khadijah Rushdan with 14 and 13 points, respectively. Erica Wheeler and April Sykes chipped in another 11 and 10 points. The team combined for 13 assists with 12 in the first half, behind Rushdan's six.
"We had 13 assists all together and only two in the second half. We just lost composure. We didn't really execute and move the ball as well as we needed to," Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer said. "Mike does a great job with the players that he has and he is doing a great job. I was really impressed with them and how could they not be ranked. I know that he is not worried about that because if they are foolish enough not to rank them then they will stun a lot of other people."
The Mountaineers continue to dominate the boards, out-rebounding Rutgers 41-31. WVU has out-rebounded all BIG EAST opponents with the exception of Marquette this season.
WVU continues BIG EAST play at home as it plays host to No. 24/20 DePaul on Saturday, Feb. 18 at 4 p.m. The game is a Play4Kay game encouraging fans to wear Pink for the cause. It will be broadcast on WVPBS with live stats and a full recap following the game at MSNsportsNET.com.