AUSTIN, Texas – The West Virginia University women’s basketball team (15-9, 5-8 Big 12) suffered a 50-44 setback at the hands of Texas on Monday night, at the Erwin Center in Austin, Texas.
Sophomore Kari Niblack paced West Virginia in the loss, scoring 16 points and grabbing seven rebounds on the night. Junior center Blessing Ejiofor led the way in rebounding, with eight boards to go along with two points. A pair of Mountaineers finished the game just outside double figures, as redshirt senior guard Tynice Martin and freshman guard Kirsten Deans added eight points apiece.
Texas took an early advantage in the game, but the Mountaineers countered with a score from Niblack. UT continued to open up its lead, as the Longhorns went on a 6-0 run heading into the first media timeout.
Freshman forward Esmery Martinez cut into the deficit following the break, and Niblack added another basket to cut Texas’ lead to seven. Deans added another score for WVU, but the Longhorns knocked down four free throws to extend their lead to nine points. UT scored with one second remaining in the frame to take an 11-point lead into the second quarter.
West Virginia began the second quarter on a 6-2 run, as Niblack scored on the baseline and Martin nailed a pair of jumpers. Texas called a timeout with 5:57 remaining in the half, before both teams mustered only one basket over the final five minutes of the quarter, as the Mountaineers trailed by seven at halftime. West Virginia held Texas to 11.8 percent shooting (2-of-17) and four points in the second frame.
Texas opened the second half on a 7-0 run, before senior guard Lucky Rudd snapped the Longhorns’ streak with a free throw. Niblack tacked on two more free throws for WVU with 5:10 remaining in the quarter. Following a basket by UT’s Charli Collier, Martin converted a runner in the paint to cut the deficit to 13 points just before the third-quarter media timeout.
After both teams traded scores, West Virginia called a timeout with 2:33 remaining in the quarter. Deans scored on three straight possessions following the break to close the gap to nine points, but Texas answered with a pair of scores to lead by 11 at the end of the third quarter.
West Virginia began the final quarter on a 6-0 run, as Niblack, Martinez and sophomore guard Madisen Smith all scored for WVU. Texas then called a timeout with 7:49 left in the game. Out of the timeout, the Longhorns added a layup, but WVU took advantage of a Texas turnover and Martin scored a basket of her own to put the score at 44-39. The two teams struggled offensively over the next few minutes, but Niblack brought the Mountaineers within three with a layup.
Texas responded on the other end with a pair of layups to go ahead by seven points with 0:42 remaining. A free throw from Rudd and a jumper from Smith shortened the Longhorns’ lead, by the Mountaineers couldn’t overcome the deficit, falling 50-44.
The Mountaineers finished the contest shooting 20-of-61 (32.8 percent) from the field, while the squad was silenced from beyond the arc, going 0-of-15 from 3-point range. West Virginia forced 18 Longhorn turnovers and nine points off of turnovers in the loss.
Texas went 20-of-55 from the floor for 36.4 percent and netted a pair of 3-pointers to go 2-of-8 (25 percent) beyond the arc. The Longhorns barely edged WVU in rebounding, 39-37, and finished the game shooting 80 percent (2-of-8) from the free throw line.
West Virginia returns to Morgantown on Saturday, Feb. 22, as the Mountaineers host Kansas at the WVU Coliseum for iBelong Day.