MORGANTOWN -- Kate Bulger capped a record-setting night with a long 3-pointer off the left wing with 3 seconds to play in overtime, lifting West Virginia to a 77-74 triumph over Syracuse Wednesday night at the Coliseum.
Barring some major upsets, the victory virtually assured the Mountaineers (15-10, 4-10 Big East) of a trip to the Big East Tournament in two weeks.
Syracuse fell to to 9-16 overall and 4-10 in the league.
Bulger's game-winner gave her a career-high and Coliseum record 36 points, eclipsing the old mark of 35 shared by Christy Lambert and Cathy Parsons. Lambert holds the school record with 38 points.
"That was exactly the play we had called for," Bulger said. "We have been working on setting picks and coming off picks the last three days of practice.
"It felt good when it left my hands, but it seemed like it was going in slow motion until it went in."
The basket capped a WVU rally in the overtime period that was keyed by a technical foul against Syracuse's April Jean.
With the Orangewomen up 71-69, Michelle Carter missed a short jumper and Jean yanked down the rebound. WVU's Eartha White then tried to strip the ball from her as they tumbled to the floor with a jumpball called.
"I tried to rip it out, and we both fell to the floor and she landed on me," White said. "I kind of pushed her off me and she kicked me."
Jean was assessed the technical for her footwork, and Bulger calmly hit both free throws with 1:04 remaining.
On the inbounds play, WVU worked it around until point guard Yolanda Paige drove down the lane and then passed it out to a wide-open Bulger who buried the trey from the right side making it 74-71 with :52 to play.
Syracuse's Rochelle Coleman countered with a 3-pointer from deep in the right corner with :26 to play.
After a timeout, Paige held the ball in the backcourt until there were :10 remaining, and then started the play in motion which led to Bulger's game-winning shot. Once again, Paige's ability to draw in defenders left Bulger open for a good look.
It was that ability that allowed WVU to send the game to overtime in the first place.
Trailing 64-62 with time running out, Paige once again beat her man into the lane. But instead of kicking it out to Bulger, who was covered, she found White, who dropped in the shot with just :00.1 remaining.
"When I first got into the lane, I saw Eartha open," Paige, who had eight points and 10 assists, said. "Then I got a little closer and thought about shooting it.
"But her man came toward me and I got it to her and she put it in."
White did all of her damage after the intermission, ending the night with 12 points and 11 rebounds, complementing Michelle Carter's 10-point, 13-rebound effort in the paint.
Coleman and Julie McBride led the Orangewomen with 19 points each, while McBride handed out nine assists. Shannon Perry added 14 points and 13 rebounds, while Jean chipped in 15 points and eight rebounds.
"I thought Carter and White just battled on the boards all night long," WVU coach Mike Carey said. "We had worked all week on our double down screens and it paid off tonight.
"We really needed this win. This was the type of game we were losing earlier in the year."
Bulger's hot shooting forced the Orangewomen out of the vaunted 2-3 zone and into man-to-man with 7:50 remaining in the first half. Bulger had 20 points by this point in the game.
The move seemed to slow Bulger down as she scored just eight points from then until the end of regulation. Ironically, Syracuse went back to the 2-3 on WVU's final two possessions in the overtime, with Bulger making them pay on both occasions.
Sports writer Greg Talkington can be reached at 626-1444 or by e-mail at email@example.com