The West Virginia University women’s basketball team continued its undefeated start to the season Sunday afternoon, as the Mountaineers took down Tennessee 79-73 in a thrilling overtime matchup as part of the Big 12-SEC Challenge in Morgantown.
After a 9-0 run by Tennessee late in regulation, West Virginia seemed hopeless on offense. The Mountaineers needed someone to step up and make a big play, and Tennessee was all over Kysre Gondrezick on defense after she dominated the first half.
KK Deans made that big play.
With 20 seconds left, Deans drove down and buried a strong and-one layup, tying the game at 66. After a few empty possessions, the game was sent to overtime.
In the extra period, West Virginia pulled away thanks to a generous bounce on a corner three by Madisen Smith and a tough layup by Gondrezick.
After the game, Smith said she thought the shot was not going in when she launched it up there.
“I thought it was off,” Smith said. “I said it was off, and it bounced in. That was just great that Kysre was able to find me and she believed in me to knock down that shot. I’m just glad I was able to do that for my team.”
Once it had the lead in overtime, West Virginia went 6 for 6 from the free-throw line, securing their fourth victory of the season.
In regulation, West Virginia was led by Gondrezick, a redshirt senior guard. Gondrezick continued her strong start to the season, scoring a career-high 27 points to go along with five steals and five assists. With this performance, the Michigan native extended her streak of scoring 20-plus points to four straight games.
“I felt good, kind of honestly disappointed a little bit,” Gondrezick said postgame. “We’ve got to just do a better job collectively making free throws and layups, but hey, we will take the win.”
After the game, she also emphasized how this win will help her team greatly leading up to their tilt against No. 4 Baylor later this week.
“When you play against a team like that that’s long and athletic, it prepares us for Baylor. It goes to show the things that I myself and the team need to work on. But we’ll take it and we’ll enjoy tonight and get ready for Baylor tomorrow.”
Kari Niblack finished with 11 points on 4-of-10 shooting, but could not make much of an impact late due to foul trouble. Niblack and fellow forward Esmery Martinez led the way on the boards for the Mountaineers, finishing with seven and eight rebounds, respectively.
Tennessee (2-1) featured a balanced scoring attack, highlighted by junior guard Rae Burrell (18 points) and redshirt senior Keyen Green (12 points). As a team, the Lady Vols dominated inside, out-rebounding the Mountaineers 56-34.
The Mountaineers will look to continue their undefeated season on Thursday, Dec. 10 when they take on the fourth-ranked Baylor Bears in Morgantown at 7 p.m.
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