Mountaineer women fall in second round, 76-67

BATON ROUGE, La. -West Virginia University’s women’s basketball team appeared to have LSU right where the Mountaineers wanted them -down six points with five minutes to play.

To make matters worse for the Tigers, three LSU starters had four fouls and WVU was in the double bonus.

But West Virginia failed to take advantage of what looked like a great situation and the huge home crowd at the Pete Maravich Center got behind the Tigers, who rallied for a 76-67 victory that eliminated West Virginia and kept the Mountaineers out of the Sweet 16.

West Virginia wasted a 21-point effort by Asya Bussie, who connected on 13 of her 15 free attempts and finished with 22 points. Bria Holmes added 12 and Christal Caldwell 10 for WVU, which finished the season with a 30-5 mark.

LSU, which advances to play Louisville in the Sweet 16, upped its record to 22-12 behind a game-high 22 points from Danielle Ballard. Shanece McKinney added 13, DaShawn Harden 12 and Jasmine Rhodes 11 for LSU.

Both teams tried to connect from behind the arc, but West Virginia made just five of its 22 3-point attempts while LSU connected on just 2 of 11.

The Mountaineers were outrebounded, 55-40, with many of LSU’s boards coming down the stretch as the Tigers got numerous second and third chances.

It was a cruel fate for coach Mike Carey’s Mountaineers, who were the No. 2 seed in the regional, but were forced to play the game on the home court of the seventh-seeded Tigers.

West Virginia couldn’t have gotten off to a worse start, missing three of its first 20 field goal attempts, which allowed LSU to get its home crowd into the game by taking a 10-3 lead just three minutes and 30 seconds after the opening tipoff and forcing Mountaineer coach Mike Carey to use an early time out.

The break had little effect as LSU continued to be the aggressor, building a 17-9 lead at the 10:35 mark as West Virginia continued its lethargic play.

Finally, the Mountaineers woke up. Three pointers by Linda Stepney, Bria Holmes and Christal Caldwell combined with layups by Jess Harlee and Caldwell put West Virginia on top for the first time with 5:53 left before intermission, 25-23.

The remainder of the first half was tight as WVU’s biggest lead came following layups by Caldwell and Holmes for a 29-25 edge. But that advantage was gone before intermission as LSU continued to be perfect from the foul line, making all 11 of its first-half free throws and taking a 37-35 lead into the locker room at halftime.