Late Dry Spell Costly for West Liberty Women
WEST LIBERTY, W.Va. – West Virginia State scored the final five points of the game here Saturday night, snapping West Liberty's three-game winning streak with a 94-89 decision in Mountain East Conference women's basketball action inside the ASRC.
In a see-saw game featuring seven ties and nine lead changes, Coach Kyle Cooper's Hilltoppers (6-3, 4-2) battled all the way back from a double-digit deficit in the fourth quarter but couldn't get over the hump against the up-tempo Yellow Jackets (7-2, 3-2).
"I think you have to give some credit to (West Virginia) State," Cooper said. "They shot the ball extremely well tonight and kept forcing us to play uphill. To our credit, we were able to respond and come into last two minutes tied with an opportunity to win the game."
In a game of runs, West Liberty found itself on the short end of a 51-42 count at intermission but came out of the locker room with all guns blazing, reeling off 11 unanswered points to take a 53-51 lead with 6:47 on the third quarter clock.
The teams traded leads for the next few minutes before State scored five of the last six points in the frame to carry a 72-66 advantage in the final quarter.
The Yellow Jackets kept the pedal to the metal when play resumed, opening up their largest lead of the night, 79-68, on a Destiny Fields jumper as the clock ticked past the 9-minute mark.
The Hilltoppers slowly whittled away at the deficit and finally pulled even, 87-87, when Audrey Tingle fed Arriana Manzay for a layup with 2:36 to play. Kalia Cunningham scored at the other end for State but Manzay grabbed an offensive rebound and put it back for an 89-89 deadlock with 2:05 to play.
Neither team made a shot from the floor the rest of the way but the Yellow Jackets' high-pressure defense impacted the outcome as WLU turned the ball over three times and missed a 3-point shot in its final four possessions of the night. West Virginia State also missed its only shot from the floor down the stretch but the visitors went 5-for-6 from the charity stripe to seal the win.
The Hilltoppers shot a respectable 47 percent (34-of-73) from the floor and 36 percent (12-of-33) from the 3-point arc but once again struggled from the charity stripe, sinking just 9-of-19 free throws (47 percent). The Yellow Jackets shot 49 percent (35-of-72) from the floor and made a season-high 48 percent (10-of-21) of their 3-point tries while shooting 54 percent (14-of-26) from the foul line.
West Liberty had 22 assists on 34 made baskets but were also charted with 24 turnovers and State was credited with a dozen steals. The Yellow Jackets finished the night with a 34-12 advantage in points off turnovers
"I never question our effort," Cooper said. "Zero doubt that we played unbelievably hard against a very good West Virginia State team. We never stopped fighting all night, even when things weren't going our way in the fourth quarter. That being said, we have to find a way to combine execution with effort at critical moments of the game. That's what we need to capitalize on these opportunities."
Tingle, coming off a career night in Wednesday's win against Charleston, just missed posting the second triple-double of her career with 15 points, 15 rebounds and 9 assists. Corinne Thomas was WLU's leading scorer with 19 points and 9 rebounds before fouling out down the stretch while Manzay finished with 17 points, 9 rebounds and a pair of blocks.
Bailee Smith tossed in 15 points to go along with 6 assists and a pair of steals with Karly McCutcheon's 11 points rounding out the double-figure scorers. Freshman post Jenna Riccardo added 9 points, 2 rebounds and a steal in 8 impressive minutes off the bench.
Fields led all scorers for WVSU with 20 points. Shelby Harmeyer and Alana Kramer added 13 and 12 points, respectively, with Cunningham also hitting double figures with 10 points.
The West Liberty women return to the ASRC arena on Tuesday for a non-conference game against Ohio Dominican. Tipoff is set for 5 p.m.