Cards’ Comeback Falls Short, 78-69

WHEELING – After battling back from a 17-point, first-half deficit, Wheeling Jesuit’s women’s basketball team found out the hard way that the fight to get back into a contest can be draining.

Junior guard Chyress Lockhart scored 14 of her game-high 19 points in the second half, and the University of Charleston managed to shake off a miserable shooting performance during the final 20 minutes to hold on for a 78-69 triumph over the Cardinals on Monday night at the Alma Grace McDonough Center.

While it was the initial Mountain East Conference contest for each team, Coach Debbie Buff’s Wheeling Jesuit squad dropped to 1-2 while the Golden Eagles improved to 4-1.

Poor shooting and turnovers haunted the Redbirds early, and the hosts found themselves in a 26-9 hole midway through the opening half, before the hosts cut the deficit to 39-26 at the break.

However, Wheeling Jesuit came out looking like a different team for the first 10 minutes of the second half, going on a 23-8 run to take its first lead at 49-47. During span, the Cardinals were 7 of 13 from the floor, 7 of 10 from the line and had outrebounded Charleston by a 14-5 margin.

But Lockhart helped key a 14-6 run by the visitors to put them back in the lead for good. With the Golden Eagles canning their free throws late, and getting a few clutch offensive rebounds, the margin grew to as many as eight down the stretch.

“Our shot selection in the first half just was not very good,” Buff admitted. “And they are very athletic and have some shooters and their shots were falling. But we talked at the half about getting the ball inside and using the post, and I think that helped in the second half.

“We came out poised and ready to go, but we just fouled too much late and let them get some rebounds that we needed and it took the steam out of us. I thought Alex Anderson did an outstanding job inside, especially in the second half and Jaila Bryant was huge off the bench.”

Anderson finished with a team-high 16 points to go along with eight rebounds while Bryant and sophomore Breanna Butler added 15 each for the Cardinals. LeAnne Ross backed Lockhart with 18 while Nichole Perry finished with 14. Those two also combined for seven treys on the night.

“I am very proud of this team for the way they battled after getting down,” Buff added. “And there is no doubt in my mind that if we can continue to give that kind of effort the rest of the season we are going to win some basketball games.”