No. 22 WVU women’s hoops thrashes Red Flash in season opener

Gold and Blue Nation

Mountaineers score 52 in the paint to dominate St. Francis for first win

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December 25 2021 12:00 am

The 22nd-ranked West Virginia women’s basketball team coasted to an 86-33 victory in its season opener against St. Francis (PA) on Tuesday night in Morgantown.

The Mountaineers had no trouble finding offense, with 5 scorers finding double-figures. The WVU size advantage was apparent from buzzer to buzzer, as it was able to score a whopping 52 of its points in the paint.

WVU coach Mike Carey was pleased with his team’s play inside — and says that’s just a sign of more things to come.

“We’re strong in the paint with Kari [Niblack], Esmery [Martinez], Yemiyah [Morris], Blessing [Ejiofor],” Carey said. “We need to go in there, and that’s going to open up the guards.”

WVU’s defense was tough, holding the Red Flash to 31 percent shooting and forcing 35 turnovers. There were moments, however, in which the inexperience of the Mountaineer bench showed through.

“We [the veterans] have been playing together a couple years now, so we know each other….” said junior guard KK Deans. “But like I said, the freshmen, they’re seeing us do that, but they don’t know exactly how to do it, but they’re trying and they’re not giving up which is the good part.”

Deans added 18 points on just 12 field goal attempts, but forward Esmery Martinez paced the game with 19 points. She added seven rebounds and three assists as well.

Plenty of new Mountaineers made their debuts in the Old Gold and Blue, led by guards Ja’Naiya Quinerly and Savannah Samuel. The duo combined for 22 points and 31 minutes on the floor, missing just two shots between the two of them.

Kari Niblack was the fifth Mountaineer with double-digit points, notching 10 points and six rebounds.

“First game, I was pleased. I was pleased with our effort,” Carey said. “Execution, as we know the first game you’ve gotta get a lot better, but for the first game I was pleased with our effort.”

The Mountaineers earn a 1-0 record after the season-opening victory. They next host Kennesaw State on Friday at noon ET on Big 12 Now on ESPN+.

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