8:05 PM ET, March 31, 2005
SPRINGFIELD, MO. (AP) -- Kari Koch had 23 points, Jenni Lingor added 20 and Southwest Missouri State rode a barrage of 3-pointers to the Women's NIT championship with a 78-70 victory Thursday night over West Virginia.Southwest Missouri (25-8) from the Missouri Valley Conference used 11 3-pointers to down West Virginia (21-13) from the Big East and set an NCAA season record of 305 from beyond the arc. "This is a great way to end the season for us, to win a national championship especially for our seniors," coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson said. After trailing by as many as seven points in the first half and 36-35 at the break, Southwest Missouri took the lead at 40-38 on a 3-pointer by Lingor with 16:44 to play. Two free throws by Chakhia Cole tied the game. But K.C. Cowgill's second 3-pointer of the night put Southwest Missouri ahead 43-40 with 15:10 left. West Virginia went 5:27 without a basket until Meg Bulger hit a 10-footer with 13:32 left to make it 46-42. But five straight 3s by Southwest Missouri pushed its lead to 61-46 with 8:05 remaining. Things got worse for the Mountaineers when Bulger, averaging 22 points in the tournament, picked up three fouls in less than a minute and had to go to the bench with 8:38 left. Southwest Missouri went on a dry spell of its own, going more than three minutes without a basket while West Virginia went on a 6-0 run to get to within 62-52 with 4:33 to go. Henderson said the Lady Bears hoped to hold Bulger to 12. But she finished with 16. "Defensively, we needed to pick it up," Henderson said. "We were moving slow. We needed to move around more. I let them know Bulger couldn't hit her 3s." Bulger left the game admiring SMS' shooting ability. "They don't shoot 50 percent [from 3] for nothing," she said. "They have some of the best shooters I have ever seen. Bulger is a sister to St. Louis Rams quarterback Marc Bulger, who was in the crowd at Hammons Center wearing a WVA hat and admiring her work. "She's a player," he said, sitting in the front row behind his sister's team bench. Bulger scored 11 first-half points, had two blocks and two steals in leading the Mountaineers their halftime lead. West Virginia led by as many as seven points before the break. Cowgill finished with 18 points and Sarah Kalassan 10 for Southwest Missouri. Yolanda Paige had 22 points for West Virginia and Cole finished with 17.