KANSAS CITY, Mo. (March 13, 2021) – Led by a trio of double-figure performances, the No. 17/23-ranked West Virginia University women’s basketball team (21-5, 13-5 Big 12) defeated Oklahoma State, 59-50, on Saturday afternoon, in the 2021 Big 12 Women’s Basketball Championship semifinals at Municipal Auditorium, in Kansas City.
The Mountaineers held the lead for nearly the entire game and only trailed the Cowgirls for 32 seconds. WVU led by as many 17 points in a game that featured just one tie and four lead changes.
With the win, West Virginia advances to the Big 12 Championship final for the first time since 2017 and the third time since joining the league in 2012-13. WVU is 1-1 all-time in the Big 12 tournament finale.
West Virginia was led by sophomore forward Esmery Martinez who led the team in scoring, with 19 points, and rebounding, with 15 boards, to tally her 14th double-double of the season. Martinez’s 14 double-doubles this year are the most since Teana Muldrow also tallied 14 in 2017-18. Of note, the native of the Dominican Republic, surpassed 500 career points and rebounds in the win.
Redshirt senior guard Kysre Gondrezick (17) and sophomore guard Kirsten Deans (11) also finished in double figures in the victory.
The Mountaineers took the early lead in the game with the help of Gondrezick and Deans, but the Cowgirls netted five points of their own, including a 3-pointer from Ja’Mee Asberry, to retake the lead. West Virginia responded by scoring nine unanswered points over the next two minutes to take the advantage right back and lead by eight. Following a score by OSU, Deans netted a triple to extend WVU’s lead to nine with 4:11 remaining in the first quarter.
Oklahoma State closed out the period on a 7-2 run, but the Mountaineers remained in front, 18-15, heading into the second quarter.
After the Cowgirls netted two scores to flip the lead, Gondrezick went on a 6-0 run by herself to help the Mountaineers jump out to an eight-point lead. OSU called a timeout with 3:54 remaining in the half and attempted to snuff out WVU’s scoring flurry, but Martinez tacked on a 3-pointer and another score in transition to keep West Virginia in front at halftime.
West Virginia rolled into the second half attacking on the offensive end of the court. After Martinez sank a jumper 20 seconds into the third quarter, Niblack netted a pair of back-to-back jumpers to put WVU up by double digits. The Cowgirls attempted to keep the game close with two scores from Asberry, but two scores from Martinez and a 3-pointer from Deans put WVU in front by 13 points, forcing Oklahoma State to call a timeout.
The Mountaineers continued to hold a double-digit lead for the next five minutes behind a pair of scores from senior center Blessing Ejiofor and a 3-pointer from Gondrezick. In the final seconds of the quarter, Martinez converted a score on a fast break to carry a 17-point lead into the fourth quarter.
The two teams traded buckets to begin the final 10 minutes of the game, before Oklahoma State mounted a 11-0 run to cut West Virginia’s lead to six points with 5:07 remaining in the game. After Gondrezick tacked on a pair at the line, Deans once again provided the spark WVU needed to close out the game, banking in a step-back 3-pointer at the 3:20 mark. The Cowgirls added a pair of free throws to close out the quarter, but it wasn’t enough, as WVU held on to secure the win and advance to the tournament final.
Next up, No. 2-seed West Virginia meets No. 1-seed Baylor in the Big 12 Championship final on Sunday, March 13, inside Municipal Auditorium. The opening tip for tomorrow’s game is scheduled for 1 p.m. ET, and will be broadcast on Big 12 Now on ESPN+, with Chuckie Kempf, Brenda VanLengen and Holly Rowe on the call. Dan Zangrilli will call tomorrow’s tournament finale for the Mountaineer Sports Network from Learfield IMG College. The game can be found on 100.9 FM, as well as affiliates across the state, the TuneIn Radio App and WVUSports.com. Live stats and game notes will also be available on WVUSports.com.