Syracuse ends six-game losing streak vs. West Virginia

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) -- Syracuse had its share of doubters after attaining its first national ranking and then losing to Georgetown and Providence, two of the Big East's struggling teams.

Though now just outside the Top 25, the Orange proved Monday night they are a team to be reckoned with.

Freshman guard Erica Morrow scored a season-high 25 points, Chandrea Jones added 22 and Syracuse stunned West Virginia (No. 13 ESPN/USA Today, No. 14 AP) 73-51 in the regular-season finale for both teams.

"All year we've come against ranked teams and haven't really come out with a good win," Morrow said. "It was Senior Night. Emotions were running high. It's the end of the season. We needed this win."

The Orange (22-7, 10-6) improved to 2-4 against ranked teams, but one of the biggest wins in school history kept them on target to secure only the fourth NCAA tournament berth in the program's 37-year history.

"When you look at it on paper and you see No. 14, it really hits home on how big a win it is for our program, for our season," said second-year coach Quentin Hillsman, who guided the Orange to a 9-20 record last season.

Syracuse improved to 13-2 at home and finished as the No. 6 seed for the Big East tournament. The Orange will play either South Florida or Villanova in the first round on Saturday.

This time, Hillsman will have more to do at the conference tournament.

"The last time I was there I kind of ate the meal, let [forward] Nicole [Michael] get her [Big East all-rookie team] award and we went home," Hillsman said with a smile. "This time we get to play."

West Virginia (23-6, 12-4), which finished third in the conference, had beaten Syracuse six straight times. But the Mountaineers were no match in this game as their long-range attack sputtered against the Orange's aggressive zone.

After hitting 51 3-pointers and shooting 48.8 percent from beyond the arc in its previous five games, West Virginia was 3-for-13 (23 percent) in the first half as the Orange built a lead that ballooned to as many as 18 points.

"Evidently, we decided we weren't going to play tonight, went through the motions and stood around," West Virginia coach Mike Carey said. "They outhustled us, and when we did get the ball they took it from us. They outplayed us in every phase of the game."

LaQuita Owens led West Virginia with 12 points on 4-of-17 shooting, while Meg Bulger had 11. Olayinka Sanni, who was averaging 16.8 points, picked up her third and fourth fouls in a two-second span in the first three minutes of the second half and finished with nine points on 4-of-11 shooting and had seven rebounds.

Syracuse limited the Mountaineers to 19 percent shooting (5-for-26) in the first half as West Virginia missed its first eight attempts from beyond the arc before Sparkle Davis hit from the top of the key with 7:44 left. Bulger and Owens, a 40 percent 3-point shooter, were a combined 2-for-10 from long range in the opening period and 6-for-19 for the game.

"They definitely extended their 2-3. They weren't going to give up any 3s," said Bulger, who had hit 58.8 percent of her 3s in the previous five games and was at 47 percent for the season. "We were getting the ball far away from 3-point line. When we caught the ball, we didn't even really have a look at the 3s. We didn't do a good job of movement without the ball. We had no offense, really."

The Orange finished 8-for-16 on 3-pointers behind Morrow, who was 5-for-11, while Tasha Harris was 3-for-3 and had four assists and three steals.

The Orange scored 20 points off 12 West Virginia turnovers and held the Mountaineers without a basket for more than eight minutes in the first half to take charge.

Syracuse went on an 11-1 run behind a 3 by Harris and two 3s by Morrow in a 44-second span to take a 20-5 lead with 8:27 remaining.

A layup by Jones and another 3 by Morrow gave the Orange their biggest lead, 26-8, with 6:53 left.

West Virginia moved within 31-18 at halftime on a 3 by Owens in the final minute, a season low for the Mountaineers.

West Virginia made a brief second-half surge with a flurry of 3-pointers -- two by Owens and another by Bulger -- to move within 45-37 with 12:50 left.

Morrow then took charge, scoring 13 points in the final nine minutes as the Orange rebuilt their lead to as many as 24 points.