ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (Nov. 25, 2021) – The No. 22/23-ranked West Virginia University women’s basketball team rallied late in the fourth quarter to grind out a 65-57 win over Purdue in the 2021 St. Pete Showcase on Thursday evening, at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg.
In a physical game that was tightly contested throughout, WVU (4-0, 0-0 Big 12) fought hard to hold its lead for 39:03 in a game that was never tied and did not see the Mountaineers trail. West Virginia picked up 22 points off 24 turnovers and saw its bench score 30 or more points for the fourth consecutive game.
Junior guard KK Deans led WVU in scoring for the second straight game and tallied a team-high 12 points against the Boilermakers. Fifth-year senior forward Ari Gray joined Deans in double figures and netted 10 points. Fifth-year senior center Blessing Ejiofor led West Virginia’s rebounding efforts, tallying eight boards in the contest.
The Mountaineers opened the first quarter on an 8-0 run, which included 3-pointers from junior guard Jayla Hemingway and Deans. Purdue cut WVU’s lead to four just before the media timeout. Following the break, West Virginia jumped out to a nine-point lead thanks to a pair of scores from senior guard Jasmine Carson, but the Boilermakers continued to chip away. The Mountaineers led by six at the end of the quarter.
In a back-and-forth second quarter, the two teams traded baskets to open the frame before a Deans’ free throw kept WVU’s advantage at seven. However, a 3-pointer from Purdue’s Mide Oriyomi made it a 21-17 game in favor of the Mountaineers at the media timeout.
West Virginia tacked on four more at the charity stripe following the break to make it an eight-point game, but eight more points from the Boilermakers, including a pair of 3’s, cut WVU’s lead to two points with 48 seconds remaining in the half. Sophomore guard Savannah Samuel came up with a clutch basket in the final seconds of the second quarter, as the Mountaineers went into the locker room with a 29-25 lead.
Senior forward Kari Niblack tallied the first three points of the third quarter for West Virginia to make it a seven-point game again, but she was later assessed a technical foul with 7:28 remaining in the frame, which led to four Purdue free throws. The two teams battled back-and-forth before the media timeout, but a 3 by the Boilermakers cut WVU’s advantage to 36-34 at the break.
In a run that started before the media timeout, Gray accounted for six points for WVU over the middle part of the third quarter to keep the lead at six points. However, back-to-back scores from Purdue made it a two-point game with just over two minutes to play in the frame. Carson netted four points of her own in the final 40 seconds of the third to make it a 46-42 game heading into the fourth quarter.
The final 10 minutes of the game proved to be as hard-fought as the previous three quarters, as both teams continued to trade blow for blow to open the fourth. However, the Mountaineers scored a pair within the seven-minute mark to make it a 54-46 game for WVU. Purdue went on the attack over the next two minutes, and even though West Virginia converted on its own end of the court, the Boilermakers cut the lead back to four with 4:43 remaining in the game.
After Purdue called a timeout, WVU stepped up in a major way over the final minutes of the game. Beginning at the 4:19 mark, the Mountaineers forced four PU turnovers and held the Boilermakers scoreless over the last four minutes of the contest. On the offensive side, seven points over that stretch to seal the win and move on to play for the showcase championship.
WVU finished the game shooting 27-of-57 (47.4%) from the floor and scored 42 of its 65 points in the paint. The Mountaineers forced 24 turnovers from Purdue, including 11 steals, and blocked five shots.
With the win, West Virginia advances in the St. Pete Showcase to play the winner of BYU-Florida State on Saturday, Nov. 27, at 1 p.m. ET. Saturday’s tournament finale will be broadcast on FloHoops.
Press Release: WVU Athletic Department