WVU women’s basketball ompletes comeback in OT to defeat JMU

Gold and Blue Nation

Mike Carey calls out to his team during WVU women’s basketball’s exhibition against WVU Tech on Oct. 28, 2021. (Photo: Jamie Green)

The West Virginia University women’s basketball team (6-2, 0-0 Big 12) picked up its sixth win of the season in comeback fashion on Sunday afternoon, as the Mountaineers defeated James Madison, 75-68, in overtime, at Atlantic Bank Union Center in Harrisonburg.

Junior guard KK Deans led the West Virginia scoring attack, with a team-high 17 points, and was one of three Mountaineers to finish the game in double figures. Senior forward Kari Niblack and junior forward Esmery Martinez chipped in 15 and 10 points, respectively. Martinez also tallied a game-high 14 rebounds to net her third double-double of the season.

The Mountaineers got started fast and took a 7-2 lead in the early going, which forced JMU to call a timeout at the 7:11 mark of the first. WVU continued to hold its lead for the remainder of a back-and-forth quarter, but JMU outscored West Virginia, 11-9, down the stretch. A score by fifth-year senior forward Ari Gray made it a 16-13 game heading into the second quarter.

WVU got a point at the free-throw line to begin the second frame, but JMU tacked on four points of its own to tie the game with 7:44 remaining in the half. The Dukes took their first lead of the game a minute later. West Virginia countered with a layup on the other end of the court, but James Madison netted five more points, as the Mountaineers fell behind, 24-19, with 5:36 left in the quarter.

JMU extended its lead to 27-19 with less than three minutes remaining in the half. WVU ended the period on a 5-0 run to cut into the deficit and held the Dukes scoreless for the final 2:54 of the second quarter. The Mountaineers trailed by four heading into the locker room at halftime.

West Virginia tied the game and retook the lead to begin the second half, thanks to a pair of layups from junior guard Jayla Hemingway and a score from Martinez. Nevertheless, James Madison continued to attack on its end of the court, and the two teams traded the lead up to the media timeout. WVU held a 38-37 lead at the break with 4:53 to go in the quarter.

After Niblack converted an and-1 try following the timeout, West Virginia led by three. However, the final three minutes of the period ended up being much like the rest of the game, as both teams continued to battle for the lead. The Mountaineers made a pair of layups in the final minute of the third to hold a 46-44 advantage heading into the final quarter.

West Virginia made it a four-point game to begin the fourth quarter, but JMU came right back at the Mountaineers with an 10-3 run that gave them a 54-51 lead with 6:20 to go. A layup by Deans cut the deficit to one point just before the final media timeout.

James Madison netted a 3 to stretch its advantage back to four points, a lead it would hold until Deans sank a triple of her own with 3:35 remaining in regulation to cut the Dukes’ advantage back to one. West Virginia outscored JMU narrowly, 4-3, over the last three minutes of the quarter to force overtime.

The Mountaineers began overtime on a 7-1 run, which gave WVU a six-point lead with 3:37 remaining in the game, but James Madison fired right back with a 5-0 run of its own. With 1:05 remaining, West Virginia locked in on offense and defense by scoring seven points and holding the Dukes scoreless in the most curial moments of overtime to complete the comeback.

Next up, West Virginia heads back to Florida for a pair of matchups at the 2021 West Palm Beach Invitational. WVU opens tournament action on Monday, Dec. 20, against South Florida before concluding the invite against Michigan State on Tuesday, Dec. 21. Both games will be played at Keiser University in West Palm Beach.

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