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JMU forward Claire Neff drives through the paint against Villanova. 

JMU women’s basketball took on West Virginia (WVU) on Sunday at the Atlantic Bank Union Center (AUBC). In a physical matchup with intense defense, WVU took home a hard-fought 75-68 overtime victory, led by Mountaineers junior guard KK Deans’ 19 points.

WVU came out strong, taking a 7-2 lead through its fast-paced offensive sets and tenacity on the glass. JMU’s sophomore guard Claire Neff and redshirt senior guard Brianna Tinsely hit a pair of threes to cut the deficit to one, but second-chance buckets consistently hurt the Dukes.

“Brianna Tinsely [was] dealing with their pressure for 39:55; that’s really hard to do for anyone in the country,” JMU head coach Sean O’Regan said. “No offense to anyone else, but I don’t know if we have another person on the roster that could handle that and play as much time as she did.”

JMU matched WVU’s stout defense and forced the Mountaineers to take tough shots. Seven of the 13 points scored by JMU in the first quarter came off turnovers, compared to zero from West Virginia. WVU compensated for its offensive errors by out-rebounding JMU 12-7 in the first quarter, which helped propel the Mountaineers to a 16-13 lead at the quarter’s end. 

The Mountaineers continued to dominate in the paint to start the second quarter but failed to capitalize, with zero second-chance points. JMU sophomore forward Annalicia Goodman took advantage by tying the game at 17 with a lay-up, followed by an offensive rebound and assist on Tinsely’s 3-point attempt to take a 22-19 lead with 5:57 remaining in the second. 

“We did not throw [Annalicia Goodman] the ball on the block one time, for a lot of reasons,” O’Regan said. “They’re super physical in the post, and it didn’t waver in her commitment to our team and the defensive end and rebounding — that’s what a team is all about.” 

JMU outshot WVU 33% to 11% behind the arc in the first half, a reversal of the Mountaineers' season average of 38.3% on 3-pointers  compared to JMU’s 17.9%. Tinsely contributed to this statistical swap, as she led all scorers with eight points and two 3-pointers at the half. The Dukes also swarmed the ball on defense and forced six turnovers in the quarter to propel them to a 27-24 lead at halftime. 

“In practice on Saturday, we worked on our defense, so that’s why West Virginia didn’t get any threes,” JMU sophomore guard Jamia Hazell said. “That was one of our main things; we wanted to work on getting a hand high and making sure we stay low because they have very good guards.”

WVU took the lead to begin the half with another fast start. Hazell said the Dukes remained resilient in the face of WVU runs, “Basketball teams are going to make runs, they’re going to make runs, we’re going to make runs — it's just how we’re going to bounce back.”

Hazell regained the lead for the Dukes with a 3-pointer as the shot clock expired to make it 42-40 with 1:46 remaining in the third quarter. Hazell continued to trade points with WVU and added to her 11 points in the quarter as WVU clung to its 46-44 lead. 

After beginning the fourth quarter on a 4-0 run, Mountaineer fouls kept the Dukes in the game. With 1:15 left in regulation, WVU committed seven fouls to JMU’s zero. JMU junior guard Kiki Jefferson was especially adept at drawing fouls and converting at the line, converting seven of JMU’s eight made free throws in the quarter. 

JMU was held scoreless for 3:13 until Jefferson hit two free throws to tie the game at 62 with 3.8 seconds left. WVU senior forward Kari Niblack missed a layup to send the teams to overtime.

Second-chance points continued to haunt JMU in overtime as WVU outscored JMU 7-1 in the first 2:44 minutes. JMU answered with its own 5-0 run to cut the lead to 69-68. 

The game got physical down the stretch: Jefferson and WVU junior forward Esmery Martinez were given double technicals after fighting for a loose ball. Jefferson then fouled out in overtime, along with Niblack, WVU’s leading scorer. The foul on Jefferson was the nail in the coffin, as WVU extended its lead to 73-68. WVU triumphed 75-68 thanks to its dominance on the boards, as the Mountaineers out-rebounded JMU 52-37.

“It's a tough one to swallow; I think it’s a missed opportunity,” O’Regan said. “You’re right there, looking a high, major win right in the face, and I thought we were just one or two plays short.”

Following the loss, JMU falls to 3-7 on the season and looks to bounce back Dec. 20 at George Mason at 3 p.m. WVU will turn its attention to the West Palm Beach Invitational where the Mountaineers face South Florida the same day.

Contact Ryan McGowan at mcgow3sr@dukes.jmu.edu. For more women’s basketball coverage, follow the sports desk on Twitter @TheBreezeSports.