No. 8 West Virginia 64, Cincinnati 43
Shooting around during pregame warmups, Vanessa House eventually moved to a spot on the left wing, planted her toes a couple inches behind the black 3-point arc and let it fly.
Another shot, another swish. Then another. Something about that spot on the floor felt really good. And when No. 8 West Virginia really needed a basket, House knew that's where she needed to go.
House made consecutive 3s during a second-half surge that rallied the Mountaineers to a 64-43 victory over Cincinnati on Tuesday night, a game that was a struggle until the 3-point specialist found her place.
``Shooting in pregame, that was kind of a sweet spot right there,'' said House, who made three shots from there in the second half. ``I was just shooting around and found it. It felt good.''
Liz Repella scored 20 points and steadied West Virginia through a game of very different halves. Playing with the highest ranking in its history, West Virginia (25-3, 12-2 Big East) fell behind 26-25 at the start of the second half and was having trouble making shots against Cincinnati's sagging zone defense.
Repella made a 3 that put the Mountaineers ahead to stay, and House hit those back-to-back 3s during a nine-point run that essentially put it out of Cincinnati's reach.
``The past couple of games, we've struggled offensively, but we've played great defense,'' said Repella, who was 8 of 13 from the field and 3 of 5 from behind the arc. ``We held them to 22 in the first half, so in the second half we wanted to focus on our offense. Once you hit three 3s in a row, you're on a roll.''
Korinne Campbell added 13 points and 10 rebounds for the Mountaineers, who moved a win away from matching the school record. The Mountaineers remained tied for second in the Big East with No. 13 Georgetown, trailing undefeated No. 1 Connecticut.
Kahla Roudebush led the Bearcats (11-15, 4-10) with 15 points. Cincinnati fell to 0-5 against ranked teams this season and 8-64 all-time.
First-year Cincinnati coach Jamelle Elliott has a short-handed team that plays tough defense but lacks enough scorers to keep up for an entire game. Many of them follow the same format - stay close into the second half, fade away when the other team hits some shots.
``That's been our Achilles' heel all season long,'' Elliott said. ``We did a great job of stopping them in the first half. I told my guys a couple of times during timeouts, 'We're not going to hold them scoreless. Eventually they're going to start hitting shots. We've got to find a way to put the ball in the bucket.''
They never did with any consistency.
West Virginia's tough man-to-man defense dominated the opening minutes, forcing seven quick turnovers - three by Cincinnati point guard Shareese Ulis, who dribbled the ball off her foot and over the midcourt line at one point, prompting Elliott to cover her face with her left hand.
The Mountaineers pulled ahead 15-9, then stalled. West Virginia repeatedly worked the ball inside and missed shots. Cincinnati's Shanasa Sanders made a 3-pointer with 2 seconds left before halftime, cutting the lead to 24-22.
The Bearcats stayed close even though they had as many turnovers as field goals (9 each) in the first half.
Roudebush's steal and layup put the Bearcats up 26-25 early in the second half. That's when the Mountaineers finally got their offense working.
Repella made a 3-pointer that put West Virginia ahead to stay. Point guard Sarah Miles then drove through traffic in the lane for a left-handed layup. Repella hit another 3, and House added two more from her favorite spot on the floor, pushing the lead to 43-30 lead with 12:43 left.
``That really opened it up for us,'' coach Mike Carey said. ``That's what we want her to do. She's a 3-point shooter off the bench, and we want her to give us energy off the bench defensively.''
Another 3 by House gave West Virginia a 48-34 lead midway through the half, way too much of a deficit for the Bearcats to overcome. They never got closer than 10 points the rest of the way.