WVU Women Win Ninth Straight; Topple Iowa State With Strong Defensive Effort

West Virginia guard Madisen Smith tries to fend off a hold on a drive (Dale Sparks photo)

The No. 21/24-ranked West Virginia University women’s basketball team won its ninth consecutive game on Wednesday evening, as the Mountaineers defeated Iowa State 65-56 at the WVU Coliseum in Morgantown.

West Virginia’s current nine-game win streak is its longest since a season ago, when the team also won nine consecutive games from Nov. 29-Jan. 12. The Mountaineers’ eight-game, Big 12 Conference win streak is the longest since the 2013-14 season, when WVU won 10 league contests in a row.

WVU (14-2, 8-2 Big 12) was led by three double-figure performances from redshirt senior guard Kysre Gondrezick (24 points), junior guard Madisen Smith (15 points) and junior forward Kari Niblack (11 points). Niblack led the Mountaineers in rebounding with nine boards. Of note, Gondrezick has now finished with 20 or more points in four consecutive games.

The Mountaineers led by as many as 12 points in a game that feature six ties and five lead changes. WVU outscored the Cyclones in the first, third and fourth quarters, while holding the advantage for 33:51.

“(That was a) tough game. That’s a tough matchup for us,” WVU coach Mike Carey said. “We had a lot of good shots. We just didn’t hit a lot of the shots. We continue to play defense. I was proud of that. For the most part, we rebounded. In the second half, we started going inside to (junior forward) Kari (Niblack) and (sophomore forward) Esmery (Martinez), which we were trying to do in the first half, we just didn’t do it. I thought (junior guard) Madisen (Smith) played well. KK (sophomore guard Kirsten Deans), even though she didn’t shoot well, she had five assists and zero turnovers.

We only had seven turnovers for the game. That was big. I thought we had a lot of opportunities on the break that we didn’t take advantage of. They scored a lot of points. I thought we did a good job overall. We missed some flair picks that we didn’t call out, and they got some wide-open looks, but overall, this was a good win for us.”

After West Virginia corralled the opening tip, Iowa State got on the board first. Gondrezick opened the scoring for the Mountaineers with a score in the paint and followed up with a triple. Iowa State guard Ashley Joens responded with a 3-pointer of her own to tie the game, but Deans, Martinez and Smith all netted scores for the Mountaineers to retake the lead. WVU led by four at the first media break

Ashley Joens converted once again from behind the arc to cut the Mountaineers lead to one following the break. Niblack forced a steal off a bad pass from ISU’s Kylie Feuerbach and scored on the other end, but Iowa State countered with a 3-pointer from Aubrey Joens, which tied the game at 13-13 with just under two minutes to go in the frame. Niblack hit a pair of free throws to give the Mountaineers the lead going into the second quarter.

After a scoreless three minutes to begin the second quarter, Aubrey Joens opened the scoring with a triple to give Iowa State the lead. The Mountaineers offense remained scoreless until halfway through the period, when Niblack converted once at the charity stripe to tie the game at 16-16. West Virginia then used a 6-0 run over the next three minutes to jump out to a five-point lead with 2:44 remaining in the half.

With just under two minutes to play in the second quarter, used a scoring barrage of its own, which included another triple from Aubrey Joens to retake the advantage. Smith then countered with a pair of free throws before senior center Blessing Ejiofor made a layup to put West Virginia back on top heading into the locker room at halftime.

The Mountaineers opened the second half with a 3 from Smith and a pair of free throws from Niblack to stretch WVU’s lead to six points. Gondrezick then sank a triple to add on to the Mountaineer’s advantage. Iowa State guard/forward Madison Wise broke Iowa State’s third-quarter scoring drought with a layup at the 6:48 mark, as the Cyclones trailed by seven. The teams traded baskets in the middle of the third, but the Mountaineers kept the lead with 5:00 remaining in the quarter.

The Cyclones trimmed WVU’s lead all the way down to 40-38 with 3:30 remaining in the period, but West Virginia used a 6-0 run to extend its lead to eight points with just over two minutes to go in the third. The Cyclones hit a 3 to close out the frame, but Smith answered right back with a jumper to give the Mountaineers a 48-41 lead heading into the final 10 minutes of the game.

Niblack opened the fourth quarter with a score in the paint, but ISU guard Emily Ryan fired right back with a triple for the Cyclones. The Mountaineers then used a flurry of scores to extend their lead to 12 with 6:53 remaining in the game. Iowa State kept chipping into the lead over the final minutes of the game, but West Virginia always provided a response to the Cyclones’ scoring threat. After Gondrezick converted a trio of free throws in the final minute, the Mountaineers dribbled out the clock to seal their 14th win of the season.

West Virginia shot 22-of-57 (38.6%) from the field and made six 3-pointers in the game. WVU also forced 10 Iowa State turnovers and scored 10 points off those chances. The Mountaineers shot 15-of-18 (83.3%) from the free-throw line

Iowa State was led by Ashley Joens, who led the Cyclones in scoring and rebounding with 17 points and 7 boards. The Cyclones attempted 39 3-point, field-goal attempts in the game, the most by a WVU opponent in program history.

Next up, West Virginia travels to Texas on Saturday, Feb. 6. Tip-off against the Longhorns is scheduled for 8 p.m. ET, from the Frank Erwin Center, in Austin, Texas, and will be broadcast on the Longhorn Network from ESPN.