Revenge was sweet for the West Virginia women’s basketball team as the Mountaineers defeated Oklahoma State 67-59 in the second meeting of the season in Morgantown on Saturday.
After a slow start that culminated in a double-digit deficit for WVU in the third quarter, Kirsten Deans led her team with 18 points and was one of four Mountaineers to finish with double-digits in the scoring column.
“[I’m] very proud of this team,” said WVU coach Mike Carey. “Very easily, when we went down 10 the team could have folded but they didn’t, and showed a lot of determination to come back and win the game, so I’m very proud of them.”
Points were hard to come by in the first two quarters for either team. For the first half, West Virginia and Oklahoma State combined to make just 37 percent of their shots while giving up 20 turnovers.
That served to keep the contest tight, as the deficit never got bigger than four points in the first two quarters. Oklahoma State took a three-point lead into halftime.
Oklahoma State’s rust seemed to come off at the beginning of the third quarter. Ja’Mee Asberry led the Cowgirls on a 14-5 run that gave OSU the first double-digit lead of the game.
But as fast as that lead came, it went right away with a surging response from WVU. Deans hit a three-pointer on the fastbreak to kill the Cowgirl lead, and in the matter of three minutes, an 11-0 WVU run got the game right back within a point.
Kari Niblack had a massive third quarter, adding eight of her 14 points to help keep the game close going into the fourth.
WVU began to pull away in the final period of play after it found the offensive flow it lacked in the early moments of the contest. Starting off with a three-pointer from Madisen Smith to get a one-point lead with the first make of the quarter, West Virginia found some confidence that helped them put out an ultimately winning effort.
The Mountaineers assisted on four of their seven field goals in the fourth, added 10 points in the paint (nearly a third of their 32 for the game), and ultimately forced Oklahoma State to extend the game by sending them to the charity stripe. In the end, WVU outscored OSU by 10 to hold on for the win.
Along with Niblack and Deans, Smith and Esmery Martinez finished with double-digit scoring totals, adding 12 and 14 points each. Martinez grabbed 10 rebounds as well to notch her seventh straight double-double, and her ninth of the season.
West Virginia was able to get the win despite the absence of its leading scorer, Kysre Gondrezick, who is with her family after the sudden loss of her father last week.
“We all had to go back to our roots and do what we do best, and that’s defense creating offense,” Deans said. “So we locked down on D and got the stops we needed and then they created offense.”
WVU was able to force 15 turnovers and get 18 points from them, but what might be most impressive from its defensive performance was the stifling of Natasha Mack. The senior was a problem in the first contest, scoring 36 points. On Saturday, she was held to 15.
“I thought Kari did a good job on her and I thought Rochelle [Norris] did a good job on her,” Carey said. “We put some height on her and it bothered her a little bit.”
The victory moves West Virginia to 10-2 overall on the season and 4-2 in the Big 12 Conference. This is its fifth straight win, going back to the first meeting of the season with Oklahoma State on Dec. 16. The Cowgirls fall to 9-4 overall and 5-2 in the Big 12, placing them fourth in the conference and a half-game above WVU.
West Virginia is next scheduled to face Kansas State at home on Jan. 20 at 7 p.m.