By Andrew Phillips, VCU Athletic Communications Student Assistant
BOWLING GREEN, Ohio – With time winding down, senior guard Andrea Barbour drove the length of the floor and converted a layup as time expired to lift the Virginia Commonwealth University women's basketball team to a 72-71 victory over Bowling Green State University in the opening round of the Postseason Women's National Invitation Tournament Thursday evening.
With the victory, the Rams improved to 18-14 overall and advanced to the second round of the WNIT for the second time in the last three seasons. Bowling Green slipped to 24-7 and suffered just its second home loss of the season.
Barbour and classmate Courtney Hurt combined for 50 of the Rams 72 points, and both finished with double-doubles for the second time this year. Barbour contributed with 20 points and 11 boards, while Hurt led all scorers with 30, including 22 in the second half, to go along with a game-high 17 rebounds. Freshman Christina Carter added seven points and junior Carleeda Green matched her effort, while adding a team-best four assists off the bench for VCU. Meanwhile, Hurt's double-double made her the school's all-time leader with 56, passing former Ram Quanitra Hollingsworth.
Trailing by nine with 3:26 left in the game, and quite possibly its season, VCU needed a spark. The spark came in the form of the senior duo of Hurt and Barbour, who led the Rams to a furious comeback. The rally started with a pair of Hurt free throws before Barbour came away with a steal on the Falcons' inbounds attempt, and dished off to Hurt for an easy layup, which cut the deficit to 67-62.
Following two free throws from Jessica Slagel that put the Falcons back up by seven, Hurt came down the floor and buried a jumper. After a VCU defensive stop, Barbour hit the front end of two free throws, but Hurt was able pull down the offensive board and her stick-back cut the Falcons lead to 69-67 with 1:28 to play.
Another stop on defense gave the Rams a chance to tie or take the lead. Hurt got fouled on a jumper, but only hit one of two from the line, making it a one-point game. However, Hurt made up for it on the defensive end, forcing a steal with 22 seconds left. After a VCU timeout, Barbour drove the lane missing a floater, but again Hurt was there to clean up the miss and gave the Rams a 70-69 lead, its first since a 2-0 advantage in the opening minutes.
On the ensuing inbounds play, Slagel was fouled in the backcourt, sending her to the line, where she hit both to put the Falcons back up, 71-70. That's where Barbour gave the Black and Gold some of its own March Madness. The Charlottesville, Va., native was received the inbounds pass and raced the length of the court, where she scored as time expired to give VCU the victory.
The Rams displayed their toughness on the road against a talented Bowling Green squad that led by as many as 17 in the first half, and 13 in the final stanza.
Bowling Green came out firing in the early going hitting three treys to spark a 19-4, which allowed the Falcons to race out to a 25-8 lead with 10:25 to go in the first half. The Rams were able to chip away, and eventually cut the deficit to single digits at 27-19 following a Carter three-point play at the 4:47 mark. After a back-and-forth battle, Bowling Green held a 34-25 advantage at the break.
The Falcons increased their lead to 13 for the final time with 9:10 remaining in regulation before VCU closed the game on a 29-15 run, while committing just one turnover in the second half.
Bowling Green was paced by Slagel's 23 points. Chrissy Steffen added 13.
VCU, making its school record fifth straight postseason appearance, advances to the second round of the WNIT for the second time in the last three seasons. The Rams, who made a third round appearance in 2009-10, will travel to Saint Joseph's on Sunday at 2 p.m. VCU and Saint Joseph's meet in the WNIT for the third straight season. The teams have split the previous two meetings.