Closer look: West Virginia-Xavier
Cole helps Mountaineers pull an upset vs. No. 6 Xavier
Posted: Sunday March 18, 2007 12:53AM; Updated: Sunday March 18, 2007 2:04AM
AUSTIN, Texas -- The Southwest was kind to Big East on Saturday.
It didn't come as easily as Marquette's first-round win, but West Virginia followed their fellow conference team in pulling off a win at the Erwin Center. The No. 11 Mountaineers moved on with 65-52 win over No. 6 Xavier.
West Virginia found itself in a tight game for much of the first half, mostly because neither team could knock down a shot. West Virginia missed seven of its first eight. Xavier missed six of seven.
"We usually play majority man [defense], but at times, we'll play some zone," West Virginia head coach Mike Carey said. "They seemed to struggle against our zone, so we stayed in that a lot more."
Things changed for the Mountaineers on offense though, thanks in part to forward Chakia Cole. Xavier clearly had the size advantage with 6-foot-5 Amber Harris and 6-2 DeAnna Mason inside. The duo managed to shut down center Olayinka Sanni, but it cost Xavier as the 5-10 Cole that came through with the biggest game. She notched a game-high 21 points and 12 rebounds.
Cole and 5-6 guard Ashley Powell combined for 13 rebounds in the first half as the Mountaineers built a steady lead. "Yinka took up a lot of space," Cole said. "They really collapsed on her, and that opened up a lot of rebounds and defensive rebounds for us. It allowed everyone to crash the boards."
It also eased the pressure on Sanni, who heated up in the second half and scored 17 of her 20 points in the period. Sanni helped stave off a slight run by the Musketeers, who suddenly hit a few three-pointers that trimmed the lead to 10. That was as close as Xavier would come.
PLAYER WHO IMPRESSED ME
Cole wasn't the only player worth watching on Saturday. Harris couldn't carry Xavier to a win, but you can see why the Musketeers (and everyone else) wanted her. Considered the top recruit by some scouts, Harris showed her versatility in the loss. She scored 19 points, snagged 10 rebounds and six of her team's 10 steals and blocked three shots. Oh yeah, she also brought the ball down the floor several times, something she does pretty well.
Harris even drained a couple of three-pointers.
She was surrounded by four seniors in the starting lineup this season, so it will be interesting to see how she carries the load the next three years.
Xavier senior Joei Clyburn might have been moving on with the Mountaineers instead of getting knocked out of the tournament by them. Clyburn spent the 2004-05 season at West Virginia where she played in nine games before transferring to Xavier. Just 12 days ago, Clyburn earned MVP honors at the Atlantic 10 Tournament, scoring 19 points in the championship win against St. Joseph's. She was unable to help the Musketeers move on this time, though. Clyburn was held to just two points.
THE BIG PICTURE
Defense has carried the Mountaineers a long way. They scored 22 points off 19 turnovers on Saturday, but as the tournament progresses, so does the caliber of teams. Those turnovers are going to be harder to come by. West Virginia needs to make opponents believe it's a threat from outside, too. Shooting 24 percent from behind the arc doesn't do much to accomplish that. Chances are, they'll face LSU in the second round. Chances are, that's where West Virginia's tournament trip will end.