STARKVILLE, Miss. (Dec. 8, 2019) – Led by a career-high 17 points from freshman guard Kirsten Deans, the WVU women’s basketball team (6-1, 0-0 Big 12), upset No. 10/8 Mississippi State, 71-65, on Sunday afternoon in Starkville, Mississippi.
Sunday’s win marks the highest-ranked opponent the Mountaineers have defeated since March 6, 2017, when WVU knocked off the No. 2-ranked Baylor Lady Bears in the 2017 Big 12 Tournament Championship. It also marks the highest-ranked non-conference opponent WVU has defeated in program history.
Deans went 4-of-8 from the field and 6-of-6 from the free throw line to grab a career-high 17 points and pace the Mountaineer offense. Sophomore forward Kari Niblack collected her first double-double of the season with 12 points and 11 rebounds. Redshirt junior guard Kysre Gondrezick notched her seventh double-figure scoring performance of the year, as she added 16 points. Also scoring in double figures was redshirt senior guard Tynice Martin who scored 13 points and dished out four assists.
After a slow start from both teams, Mississippi State took an early lead, but Niblack quickly tied the game and got the Mountaineers on the board with a baseline jumper. Gondrezick then added a floater and a fast-break layup, as WVU headed to the first media timeout with a 6-2 lead.
Niblack added a layup coming out of the media timeout before Martin tacked on one at the line. Martin scored in the lane to extend the Mountaineer lead with under two minutes to play in the first, but Mississippi State’s Jordan Danberry kept the Bulldogs close, adding eight points. MSU took the lead with under a minute to play, but Blessing Ejiofor added two free throws to help WVU take a 13-12 lead into the second quarter.
Niblack made her third field goal of the game to open the second, before MSU’s Jessika Carter and Rickea Jackson added six points to put the Bulldogs on top. Niblack and Martin added a pair of scores to bring WVU within one, then a Gondrezick jumper gave the Mountaineers the lead with just over five minutes to play.
Scores by Niblack, junior center Blessing Ejiofor and Deans helped WVU go on a 6-0 run just before the two-minute mark of the second quarter. Deans then scored on a fast-break and added her second 3-pointer of the game to give the Mountaineers a 10-point advantage. Smith added a pair of free throws as the second quarter came to a close, and WVU went into the locker room with a 36-28 lead.
Mississippi State struck early in the third quarter and cut the Mountaineer lead to three, before Niblack opened second-half scoring for WVU with a second-chance layup. MSU retook the lead at the seven-minute mark of the third, when Myah Taylor scored under the basket for the Bulldogs. WVU and MSU traded the lead over the next two minutes, but freshman forward Esmery Martinez added a layup and Deans sank a pair of free throws to give the Mountaineers a three-point edge..
Mississippi State then scored five unanswered points to take the lead, but Gondrezick tied the game at 47-47 with three minutes to play in the third. The Bulldogs responded with a pair of jumpers and a three-pointer to take a seven-point lead with just under two minutes to play. Smith’s jumper cut the MSU lead to five, but the Bulldogs went 1-for-2 at the line to take a six-point advantage into the final frame.
Smith and Martin tacked on six points for WVU over the first three minutes of the fourth quarter to tie the game, but Mississippi State responded and took the lead with 7:29 remaining. A 3-pointer by Gondrezick at the 5:28 mark cut the MSU lead to one. After a pair of free throws extended Mississippi State’s lead, Niblack hit a second-chance layup and Martin added a jumper to give WVU the lead.
Next, Gondrezick hit a layup to give WVU a two-point edge, but the Bulldogs connected on a pair at the line to tie the game at 64-64. Deans responded with long 3-pointer for a 67-64 Mountaineer advantage with 1:45 remaining. From that point, WVU never relinquished the lead, as Deans went to the line two more times in the final minute of play, going 4-of-4 to secure the upset for the Mountaineers.
West Virginia shot 40.6 percent (26-of-64) from the field and 62.5 percent (15-of-24) from the free throw line in the upset. The Mountaineers connected on four 3-pointers during the contest and outrebounded MSU 46-34. WVU’s bench scored 22 points, led by 17 from Deans, and the Mountaineers added 15 points on fast breaks.
Although Mississippi State narrowly edged WVU’s totals from the field (43.6 percent, 24-of-55), the Bulldogs struggled from the free throw line, shooting 50 percent (15-30). WVU forced 17 MSU turnovers, and Mississippi State went 2-of-8 (25 percent) from three-point range.
The Mountaineers next compete on Sunday, Dec. 15, as the team travels to Charleston, West Virginia, to face off with Norfolk State at the Charelston Coliseum & Convention Center. Opening tip against the Spartans is set for 4 p.m. ET.