MORGANTOWN -- It wasn't pretty, but considering the circumstances, Mike Carey and his West Virginia women's basketball team will take it.
The Mountaineers used a late surge to take control and then held off pesky Providence to gain their first Big East win of the year, 61-54, Wednesday night at the Coliseum.
In the process, some unlikely heroes arose.
Included in that cast would be reserve center Latitia Williams and reserve forwards Eartha White and Janell Dunlap. Point guard Yolanda Paige also stepped forward to provide leadership and key free-throw shooting down the stretch.
Williams scored a season-high 16 points and grabbed nine rebounds to lead the Mountaineers (12-7, 1-7 Big East).
White added eight points, six late in the first half to keep WVU close, while Dunlap shut down whoever Providence's hot hand was.
"Tish (Williams) is the strongest girl on our team and also has the best vertical," Carey said. "She needs to be in better shape, but tonight she was diving after loose balls, playing hard on the defensive end and giving everything she had."
Trailing 46-41 after the Friars' Michal Epstein hit a 3-pointer with 7:43 to play, the Mountaineers responded with a 12-0 run to gain control of the contest.
Paige started the run with two free throws at the 7:16 mark and ended it with two more with 5:07 to play. She and Williams combined for every point during the spree.
After Providence center Kaycee Wheeler hit four consecutive free throws to cut the margin to three with 3:48 to play, Williams followed up a missed shot 25 seconds later to move the lead back to five.
Her layup with :58 to play gave WVU a 57-52 lead before PC's Jessica Simmonds banked one in high off the board to make it a three-point game with :48 to play.
After a WVU turnover, Providence moved the ball to halfcourt and called a timeout.
When play resumed, Paige stripped the ball from Keisha Blackwell and was fouled with :13 remaining. She calmly sank two free throws to seal the verdict, then watched as teammate Sherell Sowho scored a layup just before the buzzer to make it a seven-point game.
"Yes, yes, yes it feels good to get this behind us," Paige said. "We just kept playing them real tight with a lot of ball pressure.
"Those turnovers helped us get some easy shots in the second half."
Paige added 14 points, which included a 7-of-8 performance from the foul line.
Kate Bulger added eight points, while Michelle Carter contributed seven points and five rebounds before fouling out.
Simmonds led Providence (8-12, 2-7) with 14 points and seven rebounds and Epstein contributed 12 points.
But Dunlap's defense on her late in the second half was key, as she did not score again after her 3-pointer at the 7:43 mark.
"I thought Dunlap played extremely well defensively," Carey said. "We had a lineup out there that put a lot of pressure on them and I think that was key for us in winning this game.
"It was an ugly, very physical game, but we‚ll definitely take the win."
Sports writer Greg Talkington can be reached at 626-1444 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org