The West Virginia University women’s basketball team opened the 2020-21 campaign with a win, as the Mountaineers defeated Fresno State 83-62 on Friday afternoon, at the South Point Hotel & Casino, in Las Vegas, Nevada.
WVU was led by four double-figure scoring performances from redshirt senior guard Kysre Gondrezick (23 points), sophomore guard Kirsten Deans (15 points), sophomore forward Esmery Martinez (14 points) and junior guard Madisen Smith (12 points). Martinez also led the Mountaineers in rebounding with 15 boards to tally the first double-double of her career.
West Virginia wasted no time getting on the board to start the game, as Gondrezick sank a 3-pointer just five seconds into the first quarter. She and Martinez led the scoring effort early and combined for 13 points as both teams headed into the first media timeout. Gondrezick added another triple with four minutes remaining in the quarter before Smith sank a 3-pointer of her own to close out the first quarter. The Mountaineers led the Bulldogs 23-15 at the end of the frame.
Fresno State attempted to counter the Mountaineers’ offensive attack in the second quarter and cut WVU’s lead to three points with just over six minutes to go in the half, but Gondrezick and Deans silenced the Bulldogs with a pair of 3-pointers with five minutes to go in the frame. A trio of baskets from senior center Blessing Ejiofor increased WVU’s lead to 16 with just over a minute to go in the half. FSU would counter soon after, but Deans and Gondrezick struck once again from behind the arc to give WVU a 17-point advantage heading into halftime.
The Mountaineers’ offense was stifled for the first four minutes of the second half, but Smith got WVU back on the board with a triple at the six-minute mark of the third quarter. Two more buckets from Gondrezick and Deans followed shortly after and extended West Virginia’s lead to 20 points. Fresno State attempted to chip away the Mountaineers’ lead, but scores from Martinez, sophomore guard Jayla Hemingway and Smith kept the advantage at 20 as the third quarter ended.
Leading 69-49 at the start of the fourth quarter, FSU once again came on the attack and quickly cut WVU’s lead down to 13 thanks to four baskets from guards Haley and Hanna Cavinder. However, Deans and Gondrezick once again responded to the Bulldogs’ offense with a pair of scores with less than three minutes remaining in the game. Sophomore forward Kari Niblack sank a baseline jumper with less than two minutes to go and the Mountaineers coasted the rest of the way for their first victory of the season.
West Virginia shot 32-of-77 (41.6%) from the field, including an impressive 10-of-20 (50%) from 3-point range, and out-rebounded Fresno State, 54-24. In total, the Mountaineers hauled in 24 offensive rebounds, the most in a game since Nov. 10, 2017, against Central Connecticut (25). WVU also held the advantage in assists (15-11) and blocks (4-1).
Fresno State’s Hanna Cavinder led the scoring effort for the Bulldogs, with 19 points. Forward Maddi Utti led FSU in rebounding, with seven boards, while Hanna and Haley Cavinder tied for the team lead in assists, with three apiece.
West Virginia continues tournament action at the South Point Thanksgiving Shootout tomorrow, as the Mountaineers are scheduled to play LSU in their second game of this weekend’s event. Opening tip against the Tigers is scheduled for 6:45 p.m. ET.