ORLANDO, Fla. – The No. 22/25 West Virginia University women’s basketball team won the 2019 Florida Sunshine Classic on Sunday afternoon, after defeating Syracuse, 71-69, at Warden Arena at Rollins College, in Orlando.
Redshirt senior guard Tynice Martin led West Virginia (9-1) in scoring, with a season-high 24 points. Redshirt junior guard Kysre Gondrezick also posted a 20-point scoring effort, with 23 against the Orange, while sophomore guard Madisen Smith also finished in double figures, with 10 points. Junior center Blessing Ejiofor led the Mountaineers on the boards, with a career-high 12 rebounds.
Martin helped WVU jump out to an early lead with a pair of free throws. The Orange responded quickly with four points of their own, before Gondrezick hit from behind the arc to retake the lead. Smith followed with another trey and Niblack scored on the baseline, as WVU led by four at the first media timeout.
Sophomore forward Kari Niblack scored coming out of the timeout, before Gondrezick added her second 3-pointer of the game. A technical foul was assessed on Syracuse coach Quentin Hillsman with 50 seconds remaining in the first, and Martin converted one free throw. West Virginia led by 14 heading to the second quarter.
The Mountaineers came out hot to start the second quarter, as Smith hit a trey and Martin chipped in two fast-break scores and 3-pointer to give WVU a 20-point lead with just over six minutes to play in the half. Syracuse closed the gap over the next four minutes by scoring nine unanswered points, before Martin sank her second 3-pointer of the game. Gondrezick and Niblack both scored as the second quarter came to a close, and the Mountaineers lead the Orange by 12 at halftime.
Martin opened second-half scoring just 18 seconds into the third with a jumper from the wing and Smith added a floater to retake a 14-point advantage over the Orange. Smith scored on fast break, before Syracuse scored five points to cut into WVU’s lead. Martin scored in the lane, as West Virginia headed to the third quarter media timeout with an 11-point lead.
The Orange cut the lead to single digits coming out of the timeout, before freshman guard Kirsten Deans stretched the WVU lead back to nine with a 3-pointer. Gondrezick and Deans each added two free throws for the Mountaineers, but the Orange scored nine unanswered points to close out the third. West Virginia held a one-point lead heading into the final quarter of play.
The Orange quickly took the lead to begin the fourth, but Gondrezick reclaimed the Mountaineers’ advantage with a pair of free throws. Gondrezick later added a trey to give WVU a three-point lead, but Syracuse countered with a trey of their own to tie the game at 58-58 with seven minutes to go. Martin then added a 3-pointer, before Gondrezick converted on an and-one for WVU to keep the Orange at bay.
Syracuse closed the gap with less than two minutes to play with a trey, as the Mountaineers led by one. The Orange retook the lead with 43 seconds to play, but Martin sank a pair of free throws just 10 seconds later to retake the lead. With nine seconds remaining, SU was called for a three-second violation, before Gondrezick sealed the Mountaineer victory with a pair of free throws with seven seconds remaining.
Following the win, Martin and Niblack were selected to the 2019 Florida Sunshine Classic All-Tournament Team and Gondrezick was named the tournament’s most valuable player.
West Virginia shot 20-of-62 (32.3%) from the field and made nine 3-pointers. The Mountaineers out-rebounded the Orange 45-44 and forced 16 Syracuse turnovers. WVU also held the advantage in second-chance points (15-13) and fast-break points (19-8).
Syracuse went 25-of-67 (37.3%) from the field, including 4-of-27 (14.8%) from behind the arc. Kiara Lewis led the scoring effort for the Orange, adding 32 points, and was one of two players to finish in double figures for SU.
West Virginia returns to Morgantown on Tuesday, Dec. 31, to square off against Cornell at 2 p.m. ET at the WVU Coliseum. WVU’s contest against the Big Red is New Years’ at the Coliseum, featuring a 2020 giveaway and a New Years’ brunch. Tickets can be purchased for as low as $3 at WVUgame.com.