ST. PETERSBURG, FL – No. 22 West Virginia (4-0) faced its toughest opponent in the early going of the 2021-2022 season Thursday evening, when it faced Purdue (4-2) in the opening day of the St. Pete Showcase.
Mike Carey’s group jumped out to an early lead, and his physical defense forced a number of turnovers early on against the first Power 5 opponent it’s faced this year.
The Boilermakers, however, overcame those early mistakes and played the Mountaineers closer than they have been played in any game to this point.
West Virginia’s defense came up big late in the game, as they allowed just three points over the final 4:42 of action. The Mountaineers forced a total of 24 turnovers.
KK Deans led the way with 12 points, as she was one of just two WVU players to score in double figures, in the 65-57 win.
While only two Mountaineers ended the game with more than ten points, three different WVU players — Jasmine Carson, Madisen Smith, and Savannah Samuel — tallied eight points in the game. Blessing Ejifore added a team-high eight rebounds.
West Virginia started the game on an 8-0 run.
Deans started the game by scoring seven of the Mountaineers’ first 12 points, but cooled off a bit after that, and had just ten points at halftime.
The Mountaineers forced the Boilermakers into nine turnovers in the first quarter, and 15 in the first half. Those turnovers turned into eleven WVU points in the opening twenty minutes of the game.
WVU led 18-12 after one quarter of play.
Purdue pulled to within four points midway through the second quarter, but Esmery Martinez scored on a layup to extend the lead back to three possessions. WVU stretched the lead back out to eight points at two different junctures in the second quarter, but a couple of late 3-pointers by Purdue kept the Boilermakers close.
West Virginia went into the locker room ahead, 29-25, despite struggling with shooting and turnovers in the second quarter.
Both team struggled in the second, as they combined for 12 turnovers and just eight made shots from the floor. Purdue shot just 31 percent, overall, in the first half, but six of their eight made field goals were 3-pointers.
West Virginia’s lead was cut to as little as two points multiple times early on in the third quarter, but then the Mountaineers started to heat up, as a layup by A’riana Gray gave them a six-point lead.
Gray scored six points in the third quarter alone. She finished with 10 for the game.
WVU led 46-42 heading into the final quarter of play.
Deans scored for the first time since the first half near the midway point in the fourth. That was part of an 8-5 scoring spurt during which WVU made four-straight shot attempts. The layup was her only made shot of the second half.
A 3-pointer by Purdue’s Brooke Moore brought the Boilermakers to within four with 4:43 to play, but that was as close as they would get.
West Virginia scored five straight points over the next three-and-a-half minutes of action, while Purdue missed each of its next five shot attempts. The Mountaineers ended the game by making seven of their final nine shots from the floor.
Purdue was led by Brooke Moore (13 points), and Cassidy Hardin (12 points).
Half (10) of Purdue’s total made shots (20) in the game came from beyond the arc.
West Virginia will be back in action on Saturday at 1 p.m. for its second and final game of the St. Pete Showcase. The Mountaineers will take on the winner of this evening’s game between No. 17 Florida State and BYU.