MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The third time was the charm for West Virginia’s women’s basketball team in Big 12 play.
The Mountaineers now look to see if they can sustain momentum and win consecutive league games Tuesday when they play host to TCU in a 7 p.m. tip at the WVU Coliseum. The matchup will air on Big 12 Now on ESPN+.
West Virginia (10-4, 1-2) is fresh off a 77-70 win at Kansas State on Saturday that allowed the Mountaineers to avoid an 0-3 start within the conference.
“Kansas State is a really good team and that’s a really good win for us,” first-year WVU coach Dawn Plitzuweit said after recording her first Big 12 victory. “I feel really fortunate, but also I’m really proud of our young ladies. We’ve had a chance to keep learning in each of our games so far and we call it stacking. We’re stacking some different skills together.”
The Horned Frogs (6-8, 0-3) arrive in Morgantown off Saturday’s 78-70 setback to Texas Tech and in pursuit of a league victory.
After struggling offensively Wednesday in a 70-50 loss at No. 11 Iowa State, the Mountaineers had a trio of 20-plus point scorers in the win over the Wildcats. JJ Quinerly led the way with 22 points, seven rebounds and four steals, while Kylee Blacksten added 20 points and nine rebounds and Jayla Hemingway scored 20 points to go with seven boards.
It marked the first time three WVU players scored at least 20 points since a WNIT opening-round victory against Rider in March 2019.
West Virginia scored 42 first-half points to built a 10-point lead, before the Wildcats came charging back and cut the deficit to 58-55 ahead of the fourth quarter. Despite KSU pulling to within one on three separate occasions early in the fourth quarter, the Mountaineers handled business down the stretch. Hemingway and Blacksten combined to score the team’s first 11 points of the final frame, and it was a 3 from Blacksten with 1:23 remaining that helped seal the victory after KSU had scored five unanswered points to pull to within two.
“We played pretty well during stretches of that game,” Plitzuweit said. “In the third quarter, we fouled way too much. They got to the free-throw line and we gave up offensive rebounds, and then we battled back and got a lot better at it as the game wore on. We got better at understanding when to attack and how to attack offensively and attack their different looks. It’s certainly something we can continue to learn and grow from.”
Although the Mountaineers were outscored by three points over the final two quarters at Kansas State, it was marked improvement in the second half from what transpired in each of the first two Big 12 games. WVU led Oklahoma 47-44 at halftime of its league opener before being outscored 54-30 in the second half. The Mountaineers went to halftime tied at 37 with the Cyclones, but managed only 13 second-half points in that game.
“We showed great resiliency,” Plitzuweit said. “We found ourselves in a spot in the third quarter when things weren’t going our way and we battled back throughout the last 10 to 12 minutes of that game and did a really good job.”
With an average of 13.1 points, Quinerly has overtaken Madisen Smith as the team’s leading scorer. Smith is averaging 12.5 points and was held to three on 1-of-9 shooting at Kansas State. After scoring 23 in the Big 12 opener against Oklahoma, Smith finished the road trip with nine points on 3-of-23 shooting in two games. She has scored in double figures in 10 contests.
Hemingway (9.6), Danni Nichols (7.1), Blacksten (6.7) and Kyah Watson (6.6) round out the Mountaineers’ top six scorers. Hemingway averages a team-best 5.4 rebounds, while Smith leads in assists at 2.8 and Quinerly’s 33 steals are a team-high.
Points could be somewhat at a premium considering the Mountaineers (67.4) and Horned Frogs (61.6) are the two lowest-scoring offenses among 10 Big 12 teams.
WVU, which leads Big 12 teams in turnover margin at 8.2 and steals per game at 11.1, has won 19 of 24 previous meetings against TCU, including eight of 10 in Morgantown and eight of the last nine in the series.
Five-foot-10 guard Tomi Taiwo is the focal point of the Horned Frogs’ attack and enters off a career-high 33 points with eight 3-pointers in the loss to the Red Raiders. The eight triples are the most from any Big 12 player in a game this season.
Taiwo averages 15 points and is the only TCU player averaging double figures, though 6-foot forward Lucy Ibeh isn’t far off with a scoring average of 9.3.
Bella Cravens, a 6-3 forward, brings down a team-best 6.4 rebounds, while 5-7 guard Emily Fisher leads in assists with 49.
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