COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) — Coming off an exhilarating victory over second-ranked Baylor, West Virginia found itself surprisingly incapable of bringing that kind of emotion into the NCAA Tournament.
The result was a close game against Elon that didn’t turn in the Mountaineers’ favor until the fourth quarter.
Tynice Martin scored 26 points and Katrina Pardee made a pair of pivotal 3-pointers to help West Virginia squeeze out a 75-62 victory Friday.
The sixth-seeded Mountaineers (24-10) will next face No. 3 seed Maryland on the Terrapins’ home floor Sunday.
West Virginia was in danger of missing the NCAA Tournament before its 77-66 upset of Baylor in the championship game of the Big 12 Tournament. Turns out, the Mountaineers left their spirit in Oklahoma City.
“We came out flat. We didn’t have a lot of energy. I don’t understand why not,” coach Mike Carey said. “The Big 12 Tournament, we had all kinds of energy. I don’t know why we came out flat but we did. Come tournament time, you just have to advance. There’s no doubt in my mind they’ll come out and play hard on Sunday.”
West Virginia finally came to life in the fourth quarter after Elon (27-7) forged a tie at 53.
With the score 53-all, Lanay Montgomery hit a short jumper, Martin made two free throws and Pardee buried a 3-pointer from the top of the circle to make it 60-53.
After a timeout by Elon, Malaya Johnson missed a 3-pointer for the Phoenix and Pardee connected again from beyond the arc for a 10-point cushion with 5:19 left.
“I think we just picked up our energy and got out in transition and got stops on defense, which led to those easy points on offense,” Pardee said. “I think overall we just picked it up.”
Martin went 7 for 24 from the floor in her 15th game with 20 points or more. Pardee finished with 14 points and Montgomery had 13 points and 10 rebounds.
Shay Burnett scored 19 and Lauren Brown added 17 for Elon, making its first appearance in the NCAA Tournament after winning the Colonial Athletic Conference title.
“I think this game is a tough pill for us to swallow,” coach Charlotte Smith said, her voice cracking with emotion. “When you see a locker room full of tears, you know you have players who are passionate about the game and passionate about what they do. I could not be more proud of this team and the way they came out and played.”
The Phoenix held a 46-43 lead late in the third quarter before fading. Elon scored only 14 points in the final period on 5-for-15 shooting.
“We knew like every other team, we deserved to be here,” Johnson said. “We didn’t get as far as we wanted, but we have absolutely no reason to hang our heads.”
Elon fell to 0-5 against West Virginia in a series dating back to 2010.
Smith believes Elon’s success this year put the tiny North Carolina school on the map.
“This team has done some amazing things not just in this season, but in the past few seasons,” Smith said. “A lot of times, we go around and people are like ‘Where’s that?’ We wanted to change to that. I feel like we brought Elon athletics out of obscurity. So, hopefully people will know where Elon is now.”
Elon: The Phoenix put a wrap on their wildly successful season by giving West Virginia all it could handle. Despite the loss, Elon can revel in its CAA title, beating Rutgers and playing well in close losses to North Carolina and Duke.
West Virginia: The Mountaineers are going to have their hands full if they don’t play better against Maryland on Sunday.
West Virginia: The Mountaineers are making their 10th appearance in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, the eighth under Carey.
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