Sports, Women's Basketball, WVU Sports

Mountaineers have historic defensive outing in rout of Houston

MORGANTOWN — As frigid as the weather in Morgantown, the Houston women’s basketball team’s offense might have been even colder Wednesday evening.

The West Virginia women (15-2, 4-2 Big 12) put forth a historic defensive performance as they routed the visiting Cougars (11-6, 2-4) 80-39 inside the Coliseum.

WVU’s defensive dominance was apparent from the tip, as the Mountaineers pitched a shutout in the first quarter. It was the first time in the program’s 50-year history that the Mountaineers held an opponent scoreless for an entire period.

“I don’t know why,” WVU coach Mark Kellogg said. “I guess they missed some shots, we played pretty hard and turned them over a little bit.”

WVU led 17-0 after the first quarter as Houston missed all 13 of its shots from the field and turned the ball over seven times.

“And we rebounded the ball fairly well tonight,” Kellogg said. “When they got the one shot, I felt like we limited them to the one-and-out.”

WVU out-rebounded Houston 12-7 in the opening frame. The Cougars had just one offensive rebound.

“I don’t think I realized it really until the second quarter,” WVU senior Lauren Fields said of the shutout.

“Once we get going, we’re not really worried about the score,” offered teammate Jayla Hemingway. “We just know that once we go out there, if we play to our standard the scoreboard won’t matter in the end.”

Part of the Cougars’ struggles was the absence of leading scorer Laila Blair, who picked up two fouls in the first four minutes of the game and spent the rest of the period on the bench. 

“She’s our go-to player and then you’re looking around and just trying to figure it out for a second,” UH coach Ronald Hughey said. “If you can get on a run and get a few baskets and then you can get here back in the game and hopefully she can add to that. You don’t want her to come in with the fouls and still try to force the issue.”

Blair averages over 19 points per game this season and was coming off of a career-high 33-point performance against TCU on Saturday.

“She’s the go-to scorer for them and she’s a super-talented offensive player,” Kellogg said. “We put some attention on her for sure and wanted to go at her on the offensive end. Even if we didn’t get her into foul trouble, maybe we could tire her out.”

Following the nightmare first quarter, UH made three of its next six shots to open the second. UH’s first point came on a Maliyah Johnson and-one layup at the 9:06 park of the quarter.

UH made three of its next six shots including Johnson’s, then missed its next seven to finish the first half 2-26 from the field, trailing WVU 35-8 at the break.

“We got off to the great start in the first quarter and that probably set the tone for the entire game,” Kellogg said. “We wanted the quick start. We knew that if we could prevent them from scoring, they couldn’t pressure us as much as they wanted to. Obviously, you don’t set out to hold them to no points in a quarter, but we certainly wanted to punch first.”

WVU’s lead built to 30 in the third quarter and the Cougars were only able to get it back into the 20s one time as the Mountaineers cruised to the 40-point win.

Houston finished 17-61 from the floor with 22 turnovers. Johnson led the Cougars in scoring with nine points.

JJ Quinerly led the Mountaineers with 18 points and four steals. Kylie Blacksten was next with 14 points while Jordan Harrison had 10. Fields finished with a double-double with 10 points and a career-high 10 rebounds.

The Mountaineers pay a visit to Cincinnati on Saturday and then enjoy a welcomed week off.