West Virginia women’s basketball made a second-half resurgence to beat the Ohio Bobcats at home on Monday, 88-79.
The Mountaineers trailed by as many as 16 points in the first half, taking a 12-point deficit to the locker room for halftime before finding their offensive rhythm in the second. Guards Kysre Gondrezick and Kirsten Deans led the charge with a combined 35-point explosion in the final two quarters.
Both teams got off to a slow start out the gate, combining for a 31 percent shooting clip in the first quarter. In that time, neither team established much of a lead — but the Bobcats found some warmth in the final minutes with a 7-1 run to take an early advantage.
Senior guard Cece Hooks set the tone for the Bobcats in the second half with a pair of early layups to extend the lead, but things started to look up for Ohio when they put together a 10-0 run to get their lead in double-digits.
WVU broke the run, but forward Erica Johnson scored five points in the last two minutes of the contest to keep Ohio ahead by double-digits.
“I told them at halftime, ‘We’ve gotta make somebody beat us other than [Hooks] and [Johnson],” said WVU coach Mike Carey. “Somebody else has gotta beat us. We’re letting them score at will.'”
Momentum seemingly shifted at the start of the third quarter as the Mountaineers swiftly tied the game up with an 18-6 run. WVU’s shots started to fall, especially Deans’s — she made all three field goals and both of her free throws in the quarter for eight of her points in the contest. She finished with 21.
That wasn’t quite enough to take the lead, though, as Ohio led by a point at the outset of the fourth quarter.
The fourth quarter was spearheaded by Gondrezick, who made five of her six shots for 13 points in the period. Deans added 10 as well as WVU made two-thirds of their field goals.
Hooks caught fire in the fourth quarter as well for 14 points, but she would find herself alone — she was the only Bobcat to make more than one of her buckets in the final period, but it was far from enough as WVU coasted in the last minutes to victory.
WVU’s second-half comeback was due to a massive improvement in its effort plays. WVU scored 30 second-half points in the paint (up from 12 in the first half), and grabbed 21 second-half rebounds (up from 16). Their ball movement also markedly improved — giving up just two turnovers in the last two quarters while dishing 15 assists.
Much of that production came from Esmery Martinez, who put together her fifth double-double of the season with 16 points and 15 rebounds. Gondrezick finished the contest with 24 points, while Deans added 21.
Carey credited their big second half to one thing: heart.
“Give them a lot of credit, they played with a lot of heart in the second half,” Carey said. “That’s a tough team to play right before Christmas.”
The victory moves WVU to 6-2 on the season as they prepare for their next contest on Jan. 2 at Kansas with the hopes of nabbing their first win this season in Big 12 play.