MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The West Virginia University women’s basketball team extended its win streak to six games on Wednesday night, as the Mountaineers used a fourth-quarter rally to defeat Kansas State, 65-56, at the WVU Coliseum in Morgantown.
Junior forward Kari Niblack led the West Virginia scoring attack and finished with a career-high 23 points. It marked her first 20-point game since Dec. 21, 2019 and the third of her career. Redshirt senior Kysre Gondrezick and sophomore Esmery Martinez also finished in double figures, scoring 22 and 11 points respectively. Martinez led WVU in rebounding, with eight.
“Needless to say, we really weren’t anticipating them holding for one shot at the end of the shot clock,” WVU coach Mike Carey said. “We knew we had to speed them up. I was looking to speed them up more in the second half. I just hoped we could keep it halfway close in the first half, then try to speed them up. Offensively, we didn’t move the ball. We were taking bad shots. We weren’t getting a lot of possessions. I just felt like we were taking hurried shots because we were worried on the other end that they were going to stall. We have to do a better job on that.”
After West Virginia corralled the opening tip, Kansas State got on the board first. Niblack opened the scoring for the Mountaineers at the 6:51 mark of the first quarter. Gondrezick then followed up with a jumper of her own to take the lead before the media timeout. K-State’s Jada Moore tied it at 4-4 with just under three minutes to play in the frame, but Niblack struck back with a pair of free throws. KSU’s Emilee Ebert hit a 3 with eight seconds remaining to take the lead by one point going into the second quarter.
The Mountaineers took the lead on a driving score and a pair of free throws from Niblack. KSU’s Christianna Carr then responded with a triple for the Wildcats to tie the game. A pair of 3s and a layup gave Kansas State the lead with 6:35 left in the period. Niblack broke the Mountaineers scoring drought with a layup in the paint and a free throw at the 5:27 mark, as WVU trailed by five. Niblack then hit a pair of free throws and scored off a turnover with under a minute to go, but K-State took a six-point lead into the locker room at halftime.
West Virginia opened the second half with a free throw from Gondrezick and a pair of scores from Martinez. Kansas State responded with an 8-0 run to extend its lead to 11 with seven minutes to play in the third. The Mountaineers cut the Wildcats’ lead back to one after Gondrezick, Martinez, Carson and Niblack all put points on the board within a minute. The teams traded baskets in the middle of the of third, but KSU continued to hold the advantage at the third-quarter media break. After a two-minute scoring drought from both teams, Gondrezick scored in the lane to cut the deficit back to one. Kansas State responded by tacking on seven points to end the quarter and held a 47-39 lead heading into the final 10 minutes.
Niblack opened the frame with a jumper. Kansas State’s Ayoka Lee extended the Wildcats’ lead to 10 with a pair of scores with just over seven minutes to play. KSU then added another score to take a 12-point lead, its largest of the game, with 4:36 remaining in the game.
With 3:03 left in the fourth quarter, Martinez hit a 3-pointer and junior guard Jasmine Carson tacked on two more at the line. Niblack then scored in the paint before Gondrezick hit a 3-pointer to cut the K-State lead to two with 2:03 left in the game. On the ensuing KSU inbound play, Carson deflected an errant pass from the Wildcats to Martinez who scored down low to tie the game. Gondrezick then scored a second-chance layup to give WVU the lead with 1:01 remaining.
Both teams remained scoreless until 12 seconds were left on the clock, and Gondrezick went to the line to tack on two more to the Mountaineer lead. Five seconds later, Kansas State coach Jeff Mittie was assessed a double technical foul and was ejected from the game. Gondrezick converted the ensuing free throws to help West Virginia complete the comeback.
West Virginia shot 19-of-50 (38.0%) from the field and made three 3-pointers. WVU forced 29 K-State turnovers in the game and scored 36 points off those chances. The Mountaineers also tallied 15 steals in the win.
Kansas State was led by Lee, who led the Wildcats in scoring and rebounding with 15 points and 12 boards. Carr also finished the game in double figures, tallying 15 points.
Next up, West Virginia travels to Texas Tech on Wednesday, Jan. 27. Tip-off against the Lady Raiders is scheduled for 7 p.m. ET, from United Supermarkets Arena in Lubbock, Texas. Wednesday’s game will be broadcast on Big 12 Now on ESPN+.
Press Release Credit: WVU Athletics Communications
Photo Credit: Dale Sparks