WVU Women Win, Advance in WNIT
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — At one point early in the second quarter of West Virginia’s second-round 64-57 WNIT victory over Villanova at the Coliseum, the Mountaineers had stretched their lead out to a comfortable 15 points and looked like they could name the final score.
Naomi Davenport and Tynice Martin were pouring in points and Kari Niblack was grabbing every rebound in sight on the way to her fifth double-double of her freshman year … but that coach sitting across from WVU coach Mike Carey on the Villanova bench, Harry Perretta, has learned a thing or two about coaching in his 41 years and wasn’t about to panic.
And, sure enough, the coach Carey calls a “dear friend” found a way to get his team back into the game, narrowing the score to 39-38 before WVU went on a late splurge to go into halftime leading, 48-38.
Again Villanova fought back behind Jannah Tucker’s 3-point barrage — she would hit 5 of 11 for the game — and cut it to one again in the fourth quarter … and then the Mountaineers’ terrific threesome went to work.
Martin hit from the outside, two of her 23 points that went with nine rebounds, to make it 54-51.
Then Davenport snatched off a defensive rebound and turned it into a fast break, driving the length of the floor before slipping a no-look pass to her right to Martin, who laid the ball in and got to add a free throw to boot.
That was one of Davenport’s two assists, which alone doesn’t sound like much but when you mix it in with 25 points, eight rebounds, two blocks and two steals you understand the kind of game she had.
WVU would not let Villanova climb any closer as Niblack hit a couple of free throw, Martin scored and Niblack grabbed off an offensive rebound and scored to put the lead at seven points.
For Niblack that finished off a game in which she had 13 points and 16 rebounds and, just as importantly, stayed out of foul trouble.
“If she stays out of foul trouble she can put up a double-double every game she plays,” Carey said. “She’s a double-double machine.”
But the focal point came down to the fast break run by WVU.
“It started on the defensive end,” Carey said, having gotten a forced shot out of Villanova. “Everything starts on defense for us.”
So how did those involved run the break?
“When she got the rebound, I knew she would keep it,” said Martin. “Coach Carey has taught to run to the wings because the defense will go to the middle, so we’ll get what we want.
And that was what happened.
“We needed to push the ball when we got it,” Davenport explained. “Our game is good in transition and I saw Lucky (Rudd) on my left and Tynice on the right. I always have my head up while pushing the ball. My first thing is to score, but when I see someone take me I pass.”
And it was a honey of pass, hitting Martin in full stride while looking the defender off.
That play changed the game.
“A play like that gives us a spark,” Davenport said. “Everyone gets hyped up. The crowd gets into it.”
The play was even more extraordinary when you consider Davenport is playing power forward, not point guard, although that’s a misnomer.
“It comes from being a guard playing out of position. I’m at the four, but I’m really a guard making those type of plays,” Davenport said.
What Martin, Davenport and Niblack did in this game was all the more amazing because they were the only three Mountaineers to score until 1:55 was left in the third quarter when Rudd hit a driving layup.
As it was, those three scored 61 of the 64 points scored by WVU and pulled down 33 of the 41 rebounds … as many rebounds Villanova got all game as a team.
WVU returns to the Coliseum for the third round of the WNIT against the Big Ten’s Northwestern, which is 18-14, on Wednesday, March 27. The tipoff is 7 p.m.
(Photos by David Pennock)