Despite another sluggish start, Mike Carey and his team defeated Syracuse, 63-48, in the second round of the Big East Tournament to earn a matchup with Georgetown Sunday afternoon.
A Taylor Palmer three almost four minutes into the game gave the Mountaineers (22-8) a 5-4 lead, and they would not allow the Orange (18-14) to tie it back up after that. Syracuse did keep West Virginia within sight throughout the first half, but the fouls started to mount for Quentin Hillsman's team and helped WVU keep its lead.
West Virginia then scored the last seven points of the half to take a 32-21 lead into the half, and more importantly, gain some breathing room to start the second half of play.
From there, the Mountaineers kept their distance, though Syracuse never really was out of the game. Both teams went cold toward the middle of the second half, and the lead was stuck at ten. Syracuse broke that silence to pull within eight, but that's as close as the Orange would get.
West Virginia hardly lit up the scoreboard during the final stretch, but it was even tougher for Syracuse to score, and the Mountaineers held on for the 15-point win.
Asya Bussie led all West Virginia scorers with 13 points, while Ayana Dunning and Palmer added nine and eight, respectively. Bussie leads the team on the season with 12.9 per game and will have to be big for her team as the tournament continues if WVU wants to keep advancing.
Syracuse was led by Elashier Hall with 11. Iasia Hemingway had nine before leaving the game in the second half with a leg injury.
WVU's win completes a season sweep of Syracuse, as the Mountaineers earned a close four-point victory over the Orange in the Carrier Dome early in conference play. They've also won ten of the last twelve games in the series.
The Mountaineers will now carry some momentum into the game against Georgetown, which will be played at noon on Sunday. They've won eight of their last ten games, including three straight over ranked opponents. The peak of that run came in a road win over #2 Notre Dame in February. They did, however, lose at home to Georgetown in the teams' only meeting this season, 64-54.
Sunday's game will be available to watch on the Big East's web site and will also be covered by ESPNU. It's very likely that the winner of that game will go on to face Notre Dame in the next round.
There's no time to be thinking about a potential Notre Dame rematch, though. Syracuse isn't a bad team, but Carey's team will be facing a much tougher challenge on Sunday with Georgetown, which is the fourth seed in the conference tournament.