The No. 18/22-ranked West Virginia University women’s basketball team bounced back with a 72-68 win over Kansas to earn the series sweep, at Allen Fieldhouse, on Saturday afternoon in Lawrence, Kansas.
Despite WVU holding a double-digit advantage most of the way, the contest came down to the wire after the Jayhawks climbed back with a scoring run late in the fourth. However, the Mountaineer defense held off the KU effort down the stretch, led by sophomore forward Esmery Martinez, who grabbed 24 rebounds in the win, including 15 on the defensive end. Tallying her 12th double-double of the season with 14 points, Martinez recorded the most rebounds by a Mountaineer in a single game since Lanay Mountgomery in 2015 against Temple (24). The mark also is tied for the most rebounds by a player under head coach Mike Carey.
Redshirt senior Kysre Gondrezick once again paced WVU’s scoring efforts, knocking down 25 points. Along with Martinez, sophomore guard Kirsten Deans also netted double figures (12), while the trio also dished out three assists apiece.
Additionally, sophomore guard Jayla Hemingway made her first career start in the victory at Kansas on Saturday.
West Virginia jumped out to an 8-2 lead to begin the first quarter, as Martinez scored six of WVU’s points to open the game. Kansas mustered only two points through the first four minutes of the quarter, until Julie Brousseau knocked down a 3-pointer to cut into the Mountaineer lead. WVU continued to add to its advantage with a trio of scores just before the first media timeout, as West Virginia led 14-11 with 3:43 remaining in the frame.
The Jayhawks hit a pair of free throws after the break to cut WVU’s lead to one, but the Mountaineers fired right back with a pair of scores from Deans and Martinez to make their advantage five points. KU would make another triple before the end of the frame, but West Virginia took a 20-16 lead into the second quarter.
After a scoreless stretch to begin the second period, West Virginia’s offense jumped out to a 8-0 run that helped it take a 12-point lead. Following a pair of free throws from junior forward Kari Niblack, Deans and senior center Blessing Ejiofor both added a score in the paint. Gondrezick then netted two more at the line to extend WVU’s advantage to 12 points. Kansas cut into the lead with a trey and an and-1 opportunity before the media break.
Ejiofor and Gondrezick helped WVU retake a double-digit lead over the middle part of the quarter, as each netted four points for the Mountaineers. Martinez then scored through contact to put WVU back up by 12 with 2:20 remaining in the half. Ejiofor scored once again in the paint, as the Mountaineers limited the Jayhawks to just four free throws over the final four minutes of the second quarter. West Virginia led Kansas, 39-29, at halftime.
Hemingway scored the first bucket of the second half for WVU just 15 seconds into the third quarter. Both teams remained scoreless until the 7:59 mark of the period, when Kansas hit a pair of free throws. West Virginia then converted two fast-break scores to take a 14-point lead, forcing the Jayhawks to call a timeout.
Kansas netted two scores after the break, but Gondrezick sank a 3-pointer to extend WVU’s advantage to 15. Niblack then converted an and-1 oppurtunity, but the Jayhawks continued to attack on the offensive end and cut West Virginia’s lead to 10 at the media timeout.
KU kept up its offensive onslaught for the remainder of the quarter, while WVU netted a pair of free throws from Gondrezick and a score in the paint by junior guard Jasmine Carson. West Virginia led by four at the end of the third quarter.
Martinez got WVU on the board with a score in the paint, but the Jayhawks continued to keep the game close with three points from Zakiyah Franklin. Gondrezick then sank a pair of free throws and a score down low, before Deans added a score off a drive to extend WVU’s lead to seven points just before the final media break.
Out of the media timeout, Gondrezick converted 1-of-2 at the line give WVU a six-point lead. The Jayhawks didn’t ease up, though, connecting on a layup at the other end. Martinez responded with a jumper before the Jayhawks took advantage of a Mountaineer miscue to score on a fast break and come within two.
A foul from Carson sent KU’s Holly Kersgieter to the line, where she knocked down a pair of foul shots to keep WVU’s lead to just two with 1:27 remaining. However, the Mountaineers held off the Jayhawks’ effort down the stretch, and Gondrezick sealed the victory with a 3-pointer with 11 seconds remaining on the game clock.
The two teams’ shooting percentages were nearly identical in the final box, as the Mountaineers went 39% (28-of-71) from the floor and the Jayhawks shot 38% (24-of-64). West Virginia struggled beyond the arc, shooting just 13% (2-of-15), while Kansas shot 33% (3-of-15). However, WVU dominated the boards, grabbing 51 compared to KU’s 37.
Next up, West Virginia travels to Manhattan, Kansas, on Wednesday, March 3, for a matchup against Kansas State at Bramlage Coliseum. Opening tip against the Wildcats is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. ET. Wednesday’s game will be broadcast on Big 12 Now on ESPN+.