Rutgers erases nine-point deficit, knocks off West Virginia

PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- After flying under the radar most of the season, Rutgers is again finding its game with the NCAA tournament just around the corner.

Chelsey Lee converted a go-ahead three-point play with 1:02 left and Rutgers rallied from a nine-point second-half deficit to defeat West Virginia (No. 18 ESPN/USA Today, No. 19 AP) 67-58 on Saturday.

It was the third straight win for the Scarlet Knights (17-11, 10-5 Big East), and their second over a ranked team in eight days.

"Our record is not impressive but I would challenge anybody else to play this type of schedule," said coach C. Vivian Stringer, whose team has losses to Connecticut, Stanford, Tennessee, Texas A&M, DePaul and Notre Dame, just to mention top 10 teams. "Of course, we count on someone from the NCAA to remember that."

While she has called her team selfish and thin-skinned at times this season, Stringer now believes Rutgers can compete with anyone.

"We probably can," she said. "I don't need any votes. I'm not trying to get a top 20. Leave us right where we are, oblivious, nobody knows our name. That's good. We do very well anonymously. We'll just keep working. We have to earn the right to get recognition and I don't know if we can handle that."

Rutgers handled the struggling Mountaineers (21-8, 7-8) by forcing 22 turnovers in handing them their seventh loss in nine games.

Erica Wheeler scored a career-high 22 points and April Sykes added 18 for the Scarlet Knights, who outscored West Virginia 12-2 in the final 2:35 and held the Mountaineers without a basket for the final 3:19 to keep their hopes alive for the No. 4 seed in the Big East tournament.

Rutgers needs to beat Seton Hall on Monday and have Louisville (19-10, 10-5) lose at Providence.

Sykes said the Scarlet Knights aren't worried whether they will be the fourth seed and have byes for the first two games of the conference tournament or if they are lower and have to play an extra game.

"We're going to be prepared for whatever, whether we have to play that day or not," she said. "We hope Louisville loses. But we'll be prepared to go and play and take care of business."

The loss assures that West Virginia will have to play an opening-round game in the tournament, something coach Mike Carey was worried about because his team needs to get back on track.

What annoyed Carey after this game was referee Angela Lewis. She made a couple of calls that upset him, including an overrule on a charge called by fellow official Ed Sidlasky that gave Rutgers two free throws with 3:47 to play and the Scarlet Knights up 54-53.

Carey stormed on the court after the game and yelled at Lewis, before returning to the sideline to shake hands with Rutgers' players and coaches.

"I can't talk about the referee," Carey said. "I would love to. The female, unbelievable, referee. I didn't say their names so maybe I won't get in trouble. Unbelievable. Unbelievable calls down the stretch. It's unbelievable. We didn't even get to the one-and-one until under 30 seconds. Granted you have to attack the rim to get the one-and-one, but we were. We were getting banged driving and no calls, and they were getting those calls."

Carey insisted Rutgers made the plays down the stretch and West Virginia didn't.

After Lee hit the go-ahead three-point play for a 59-56 lead, Liz Repella, who had 20 points, missed a game-tying 3-point attempt.

Khadijah Rushdan, who had 11 points, added two free throws to push the lead to five points. Repella then missed another 3-point try, and Vanessa House missed a follow.

Monique Oliver added two more free throws with 17.3 seconds to go. Rushdan added two more when Carey was called for a technical by Lewis after Repella was fouled with 10.2 seconds left.

"This makes Monday against St. John's more important and puts a little more pressure on us going into the [Big East] tournament," Carey said. "People ask me if I want the bye. Heck, we need some wins. I don't want a bye. Who wants a bye? We need to play."

Korinne Campbell added 14 points for the Mountaineers, her first double-digit effort in 16 games.