W.Va. State Runs Past WJU, 73-60

Wheeling Jesuit’s Cassi Stein (4) looks to get around the defense of W.Va. State’s Alexandria Jackson during Thursday’s game at the MEC Tournament. Photo by Sam Santilli

CHARLESTON — Wheeling Jesuit missed its first six shot attempts and things didn’t get better the rest of the way during Thursday’s Mountain East Conference Tournament women’s basketball quarterfinal matchup with West Virginia State at the Charleston Civic Center Coliseum. The Cardinals (12-17) were held to 27.4-percent shooting (20 of 73) and never recovered from that slow start in a 73-60 loss to the Yellow Jackets (14-15).

“I am disappointed, not in the effort, but in the shooting. We don’t like to lose,” WJU coach Debbie Buff said of her team, which was trying to win its third consecutive tournament title. “We haven’t shot like that all year.

“Hats off to W.Va. State and Coach (Charles) Marshall, they have a very good, athletic team. I don’t want to take anything away from them, but coming in we knew what they were going to do and we just missed shots.”

Despite the ice-cold start, Jesuit managed to stay within 10-9 after a quarter of play. But as the game wore on, the Yellow Jackets were able to take advantage of the absence of Cardinals All-MEC post player Chennelle Moore on both ends of the floor. Moore being out forced 5-foot-9 Cassi Stein to play inside defensively, and offensively Moore wasn’t there to clean up missed shots.

“Their guards are good, but I think overall we have the better players,” Marshall said. “(Moore) is obviously a good player and they missed her, but we did a good job of making plays when we needed to.

“And we made shots. That doesn’t hurt.”

By halftime the Yellow Jackets were ahead 33-21 and they opened the second half on a 7-2 run that included one of Jordan Miller’s four 3-pointers that were part of a 17-point effort.

“At halftime we went in and we were down 12 points,” Buff recalled. “We were relaxed and loose because we figured we weren’t going to miss that many shots again.”

The Cardinals did, however. They shot better in the second half — 13 of 36 — but it was never enough to reel in the Yellow Jackets, who connected on nearly 50 percent of their shots.

MEC second-team guards Mariah Callen and Mo Burns were forced into tough shooting efforts by an aggressive State defense, as the duo combined to go 7 of 28 and score 12 points apiece. That total put Burns past 1,000 for her career.

“Chennelle really opens up the lanes for our guards,” Buff said. “It’s not an excuse because injuries are part of the game.

“Their zone didn’t come off of Mariah and Mo. And a big part of what we did all year was play inside-outside.”

A 10-2 run that included seven of Shae Hines’ game-high 20 points gave the Yellow Jackets a 55-32 third-quarter lead. The margin reached as high as 25 with 8:05 left in the game although the Cardinals ultimately won the fourth quarter, 22-18.

The contest marked the end of the college career of Callen, the Cardinals’ lone senior. She put her four years into perspective.

“We made it down here all four years, and not many teams can say that. We won back-to-back championships, and not many can say that,” Callen said. “It’s been great.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better experience. ”

Buff was moved to tears for what she said is only the second time in her career, when asked to look back on Callen’s contributions to the program.

“When I recruited her everyone said she was too small and that she couldn’t play at this level,” Buff said. “She is the hardest-working kid I have ever coached.

“And she’s a fighter.”

Stein paced WJU with 13 points. Lauren Lipscomb added 10 points and seven rebounds.

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