In front of fans in the southern part of the state, the West Virginia University women’s basketball team topped Radford, 74-37, on Sunday afternoon, at the Beckley-Raleigh Convention Center.
For the third straight game, redshirt junior guard Kysre Gondrezick paced WVU with 22 points, shooting 3-for-5 from three-point range and 3-for-3 at the free-throw line. Two more Mountaineers hit double digits, as sophomore guard Madisen Smith and junior guard Arleighshya McElroy added 10 points apiece. Freshman forward Esmery Martinez also added eight points and eight rebounds, while sophomore Kari Niblack chipped in eight points and seven boards.
“I want to thank the people of Beckley who came out and supported us here today,” coach Mike Carey said. “We really appreciate that. As far as the game, (it was) a little sloppy. I thought our girls played hard. We’re playing so many people. We’re playing 10 people and rotating them in and out. We get sloppy sometimes because of that. We have to form a bench going into conference play, and that’s what we’re trying to do right now. (I’m) very proud of these two. I thought, overall, we played extremely hard. The only way you’re going to get better is if you play hard, and I thought we played hard the whole game.”
Despite an early block from junior center Blessing Ejiofor, the Highlanders came back with a layup for a 2-0 lead. Niblack tied things up down the other end before Ejiofor gave the Mountaineers the 4-2 lead on the fast break less than three minutes into the game. Back-to-back buckets from Gondrezick made it an 8-4 WVU lead midway through the frame.
Niblack got the bucket and drew the foul, hitting the free-throw before Gondrezick added two more on the fast break as the Mountaineers pushed their advantage to seven at 13-6. Radford used a field goal and a trip to the free-throw line to cut the deficit to three before Smith drained her first triple of the day. She added a jumper to cap the quarter as the Mountaineers led 18-12 through 10 minutes of play.
It was Smith who started the scoring in the second, and redshirt senior guard Tynice Martin kept things going with a three-pointer for her first points of the season and a double-digit lead at 23-12. Niblack came up big with back-to-back blocks, and both teams hit the free-throw line as WVU’s lead stretched to 27-13 with just over six to play in the quarter. The Highlanders picked up two in the paint, but Gondrezick responded with a triple off a pass from Smith to keep the Mountaineer lead at 15 midway through the second. Each team would hit just one shot for the remainder of the quarter as Radford made a layup and Martin drained a three for a 33-17 West Virginia lead at the half.
Senior guard Lucky Rudd started the third with a bucket and a free-throw, starting an 8-0 run that included a three-pointer from Smith as the Mountaineers stretched their lead to 24 at 41-17 less than four minutes into the second half after Gondrezick added two more at the line. Martinez countered a Radford trey with a bucket of her own, adding another layup in between trips to the free-throw line for both teams. Gondrezick hit two consecutive 3-pointers before freshman guard Kirsten Deans hit a buzzer-beater layup to end the third quarter and give WVU a 57-25 advantage into the final frame.
The fourth quarter opened with Niblack adding one at the line and McElroy burying a deep three to extend the lead. McElroy later added two at the line before adding a field goal and the ensuing free-throw, pushing the WVU advantage to 38 at 68-30. Niblack added a bucket, while Gondrezick completed a three-point-play and the Mountaineers never looked back, claiming the 74-37 victory.
West Virginia returns to the WVU Coliseum on Thursday to host Coppin State in a 10 a.m. tipoff for Education Day.