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West Virginia Travels to No. 16 Kentucky for Big 12/SEC Challenge

Following a St. Pete Showcase Championship game appearance last weekend, the West Virginia women’s basketball team will be back in action at No. 16 Kentucky in the Big 12/SEC Challenge on Wednesday.

The Thanksgiving tournament for the Mountaineers first saw the team handle Purdue on Thursday night by a slight margin, 65-57. West Virginia was led offensively in that game by junior guard Kirsten Dean’s 12 points, but the defense may have been the main indicatory scooping up 22 points off 24 Boilermaker turnovers.

West Virginia then took on BYU in the Championship round of the Florida based tournament, and ultimately fell in the final seconds, 58-57. The matchup came down to the final seconds as both teams had multiple free throw opportunities, but the Cougars proved to be more clutch. Junior forward Esmery Martinez helped the Mountaineers out with 18 points on the night but it was not enough against a tough BYU defense which only served up 56 points through four quarters.

The defeat to BYU in St. Petersburg, Florida was the Mountaineers first of the season as the team won three straight matchups to tip off the season. The trio of victories for West Virginia came against Saint Francis (Pa.) on Nov. 16, against Kennesaw State on Nov. 19 and over Radford inside the Coliseum on Nov. 21.

Through the five-game season so far, the Mountaineers have averaged 73.8 points per game and held opponents to scoring only 47.4 points per game. Inside the three-point line has been the difference maker for West Virginia where they have knocked down 118 of their 141 field goal shots, or 83 percent.

A lot of that success has come off the fingers of junior guard Kirsten Deans who has averaged 14.5 points per game followed by junior forward Esmery Martinez’s 12.5 points per matchup. The pair of Mountaineers are the only ballers to average double digits this far through the season heading to Kentucky on Wednesday.

The part of their game that the West Virginia ladies have stepped up their game is on the defensive end of the floor where the team has forced a whopping 27.4 turnovers per game with 10.8 points per game coming off those turnovers. The defense has also made 68 steals total through five game and and averaged 13.6 steals per game through the stretch.

Kentucky comes into Wednesday’s tilt on a two-game winning streak over Winthrop on Nov. 21 and against La Salle on Nov. 27. The Wildcats sit at 4-1 on the season with the lone loss coming to Indiana University on Nov. 14, 67-88.

The team has been averaging almost 10 more points per game than West Virginia at 82.4 and have allowed 59.2 points per contest.

Four different Wildcats have averaged double digits through each game this season as redshirt junior forward Dre’Una Edwards leads the attack with 19.2 points per game while senior guard Rhyne Howard also averages a dominant 19.2 PPG.

Senior guard Robyn Benton and freshman guard Jada Walker have also consistently posted double figures at 13.6 and 11 points per matchup, respectively.

West Virginia and Kentucky will tip off on Wednesday from Lexington, Kentucky at 7 p.m. inside Memorial Coliseum with televising on SEC Network+.

Photo by Dale Sparks, All Pro Photography

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