WVU Women's Hoops Downs St. Francis

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    Behind a career-high 24 points from redshirt junior guard Kysre Gondrezick, the West Virginia University women’s basketball team opened the 2019-20 season with a 74-45 victory over Saint Francis at the WVU Coliseum on Thursday night in Morgantown.

    Gondrezick went 8-of-17 from the field, 4-of-8 from 3-point range and 4-of-4 at the line to top her previous career best of 22. Two other Mountaineers also scored in double figures, as sophomore forward Kari Niblack and redshirt freshman Rochelle Norris added 10 apiece. Senior guard Lucky Rudd dished out five assists, while freshman Esmery Martinez grabbed eight boards.

    “Give credit to Saint Francis,” WVU coach Mike Carey said. “They played hard. Actually, I think they played harder than we did. Give them a lot of credit. This was their second game. This is our first, and it sure looked like it. I played a lot of people. There was one time, I looked out there and had three freshmen and two sophomores. We played a lot of young people. I’m just going to try that. I have to develop the bench this year. It’s something we didn’t do last year, so I’m going to play a lot of people. I have to find out what’s the best combination, and where to use them.”

    Five Mountaineers made their WVU debut Thursday night, including junior center Blessing Ejiofor, junior guard Arleighshya McElroy, freshman Kirsten Deans, Norris and Martinez.

    Ejiofor won the opening tip for the Mountaineers, but Saint Francis netted the first points of the game with a 3-pointer before Niblack got WVU on the board with a layup just past the one minute mark.

    The Mountaineers endured missed opportunites through the first five minutes of the opening frame, as a turnover from Gondrezick and a foul from Niblack led to another Sanit Francis trey, extending the advantage to 8-2 in favor of the Red Flash.

    Gondrezick responded on the other end, though, with a short jumper, before McElroy drew a foul and added two at the line to tally her first points as a Mountaineer. An SFU turnover and a layup from Norris tied the game at 8-8. McElroy then gave WVU its first lead of the contest, but the Red Flash responded with another 3-pointer to reclaim the advantage.

    WVU and SFU continued to trade baskets back and forth in the final minutes of the opening quarter, and the score was tied at 17 all after a Saint Francis buzzer beater ended the frame.

    Niblack drew a foul to open the second quarter, but couldn’t convert at the line. However, a defensive rebound and subsequent turnover from SFU allowed Niblack to get the points back with an easy jumper.

    Norris added another layup, then SFU grabbed its first points of the second quarter to make the score 21-19 in favor of WVU.

    The Mountaineers led by as many as six through the second frame, but Saint Francis drew back-to-back fouls and went 4-for-4 at the line to come within two. The score remained close for most of the second quarter, but a Norris layup sparked an 11-0 Mountaineer run to end the first half. Deans hit a buzzer beater at the last second to give WVU a 40-28 lead at the break.

    Saint Francis came back strong, going on a 6-0 run in the opening minutes of the third, but Gondrezick gave WVU its first bucket of the half with a layup at the 5:26 mark. Gondrezick stayed hot, adding a trey after the media timeout, before assisting on a Norris layup.

    The Mountaineers held a double digit advantage through most of the third quarter. A layup from Rudd and another from Martinez gave WVU a 53-37 advantage going into the final frame.

    Saint Francis added two at the line, but otherwise stayed quiet from the field in the fourth, as WVU opened up its scoring in the final 10 minutes of the game. Niblack and Martinez added a layup apiece, while Gondrezick connected on two more treys to surpass her career high.

    SFU turnovers and missed opportunities allowed WVU to dominate the remainder of the contest, as the Mountaineers outscored the Red Storm 21-8 in the fourth to open the 2019-20 campaign with a victory.

    WVU dominated the final numbers, adding 40 points in the paint and 29 points off turnovers. WVU finished the contest shooting 47.5 percent (29-of-61) from the field and 60 percent (12-of-20) from the free throw line.

    True freshman Sam Miller led the way for Saint Francis, shooting 50 percent beyond to arch to tally 14 points on the night. The Red Storm shot 23.5 percent (12-of-51) as a team.

    The Mountaineers return to action Sunday, Nov. 10th, when they host Presbyterian in a 2 p.m. tip at the WVU Coliseum.

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