No. 22 West Virginia suffers first loss to BYU in St. Pete Showcase title game

Gold and Blue Nation

Esmery Martinez and KK Deans combine for 35 points, but free throw shooting is the difference between WVU and BYU.

Mike Carey calls out to his team during WVU women’s basketball’s exhibition against WVU Tech on Oct. 28, 2021. (Photo: Jamie Green)

No. 22 West Virginia (4-1) was looking to keep its undefeated season alive, and earn an early season tournament title, against unbeaten Brigham Young (7-0) at the St. Pete Showcase Saturday afternoon, 58-57.

Unfortunately for the Mountaineers, BYU had other plans.

WVU used an extended scoring run to jump out to a lead in the first quarter, but was held to just seven points in the third period as BYU closed the gap. The Cougars took a one-point lead into the final quarter of play.

Another scoring drought by the Mountaineers in the fourth quarter allowed BYU to take the lead.

A pair of made free throws with three seconds left put Brigham Young ahead by two points. West Virginia had a chance to send the game into overtime.

Kari Niblack was fouled in the act of shooting as time expired. She made her first shot from the foul line, but was unable to knock down the second.

WVU scored the opening five points of the fourth quarter. BYU responded by scoring nine of the next twelve to take a 54-52 lead with 2:43 left to play.

Esmery Martinez knocked down a jumper one minute later. That not only tied the game, but also snapped a four-minute scoring drought.

Martinez scored and tied the game once again with just under one minute to go in the game. She finished with a team-high 18 points, and collected six rebounds.

KK Deans was the only other Mountaineer player to score in double-figures, as she scored 17 points and grabbed six rebounds. She was responsible for all four of WVU’s made 3-pointers. However, Deans also committed nine turnovers.

Madisen Smith collected a steal on the ensuing BYU possession, giving WVU the chance to take the lead. However, a missed layup gave the Cougars another shot at a win.

BYU’s Shaylee Gonzales knocked down a pair of free throws with just three seconds remaining to give the Cougars a two-point lead.

Gonzales scored a game-high 20 points, and was a perfect 6-for-6 from the free throw line.

Niblack was able to get off a last-second shot attempt, and was fouled as time expired.

Niblack made her first of two free throws. BYU called a timeout. Her final free throw attempt, which would’ve sent the game to overtime, was off the mark. The Cougars escaped with a one-point win.

West Virginia shooters were just 9-for-15 from the charity stripe in the game. WVU also committed 23 turnovers, and had six shots blocked by Cougar defenders.

The Mountaineers led 37-29 at halftime. West Virginia scored 15 points off of 12 BYU turnovers in the first half.

The Cougars took the lead in the third quarter.

WVU went cold, making just 3-of-13 shots in the period. Meanwhile, BYU forced the Mountaineers to turn the ball over seven times, and scored 10 points off of those turnovers.

West Virginia led by ten after the first quarter of play, thanks to a 15-2 scoring run over the final 7:08 of the period.

The Mountaineers shot just 33.3 percent from the floor, and just 50 percent from the free throw line, after halftime.

West Virginia will face another tough test on Wednesday, when it travels to Lexington, Kentucky to take on No. 20 Kentucky.

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