Rutgers' Charese Reed, right, battles West Virginia's Britney Davis-White for a rebound during the first half of their Big East semifinal basketball game in Hartford, Conn., on Monday, March 6, 2006. (AP Photo/Fred Beckham)
March 6, 2006
Hartford, Conn. (AP) - - West Virginia's surprising postseason run continues with perhaps the biggest stunner of all.
Britney Davis-White had a career-high 21 points and Chakhia Cole added 18 to help the 12th-seeded Mountaineers (15-14) stun No. 6 Rutgers 56-40 Monday night in the Big East tournament semifinal.
The Mountaineers (15-15) are the highest seed to reach the tournament finals in its 23-year history. The top-seeded Scarlet Knights (25-4) have won the last two regular season titles and were aiming for their first tournament title. But the scrappy Mountaineers foiled those plans with their third upset in as many days and held Rutgers, which was undefeated in the conference for the first time in school history, to a season-low 40 points.
The Mountaineers play the winner of the DePaul-Connecticut game in Tuesday's final.
Lightly regarded coming into the tournament without leading scorer Meg Bulger, West Virginia knocked off fifth-seeded Louisville 54-45 on Saturday then beat fourth-seeded St. John's 55-49 on Sunday. Bulger suffered a season-ending knee injury in a Jan. 29 loss at St. John's. West Virginia won their next game but ended their season with an eight-game losing streak.
Cappie Pondexter, the conference player of the year, finished with 21 points for Rutgers. She scored the last eight points for the Scarlet Knights over a 4 minute span. But the Mountaineers got to the line on nearly ever possession and made 10 of 13 free throws down the stretch to seal the game.
The Scarlet Knights, tops in the nation in defense, had a chance to get back into it midway through the second half. Matee Ajavon scored off her own steal and got the Scarlet Knights to within seven at 35-28. Pondexter stole the ball on the next possession and hit a floater off the breakaway that would have cut the lead to five, but the basket was ruled no good. Rutgers' Essence Carson trailed the play and was called for interference when she leaped and hit the rim as the ball dropped through. The Scarlet Knights would get no closer after that.
Cole and Davis-White, as they have all tournament, played with passion, determined to keep their season alive.
The 5-foot-10 Cole battled inside all game against Rutgers bigger post players Kia Vaughn, Michelle Campbell and Mariota Theodoris. Most of her points came on driving layups. Davis-White was 14-for-20 from the line, making most of them in the final 2 minutes of the game.
Neither team generated much offense in the first half. West Virginia missed several easy layups and all four 3-point attempts and shot just 25 percent from the floor.
The Scarlet Knights didn't fare much better and had twice as many turnovers (12) than made field goals (6). Pondexter was 3-of-10 from the floor and the only player with more than one field goal. Rutgers also struggled from the free throw line, making just 3-of-8 attempts.
The Mountaineers closed out the period with an 8-2 run for an 18-16 lead at the break.