No. 23 West Virginia escapes Kansas, 62-51

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LAWRENCE, Kan. –  Prior to Wednesday night’s matchup, Kansas women’s basketball head coach Brandon Schneider challenged his squad to bring more effort, energy and heart to the hardwood than its opponent. The Jayhawks accepted the challenge presented during shootaround and delivered by leaving every ounce of effort, energy and heart on the court.

Despite facing its sixth nationally-ranked opponent in its last seven outings, Kansas threatened to upset No. 23 West Virginia, but the Mountaineers escaped with a 62-51 victory inside Allen Fieldhouse.

KU’s stifling defense allowed the Jayhawks (6-12, 0-7 Big 12) to stay within reach of the Mountaineers for most of the game, (15-4, 3-4 Big 12) despite a slow start on the offensive side. The Jayhawks held West Virginia to just 19 points combined in the second and third periods, which gave KU time to earn its first lead, which Kansas maintained for just over three minutes before WVU came storming back.

In the final minutes of the game, the Jayhawks found themselves down by two possessions with the clock against them. KU was forced to foul in hopes that the Mountaineers wouldn’t convert from the charity stripe and keep its hopes of an upset alive. However, WVU had other plans and capitalized on nearly every opportunity from the free throw line, establishing a double-digit advantage and sinking Kansas’ thought of a come-from-behind victory.Redshirt sophomore McKenzie Calvert

Redshirt junior guard Jessica Washington once again led all scorers after recording 24 points, her fourth contest this season reaching the 20-point plateau. With her 24 points, Washington has led all scorers in five of her last seven Big 12 Conference outings. Also contributing double figures was sophomore guard McKenzie Calvert after a 12-point performance, her 10th double-digit scoring effort of the season.

West Virginia’s offense was paced a trio of Mountaineers in double figures. Sophomore guard Tynice Martin led the team with 21 points, including nine from the free throw line. Senior center Lanay Montgomery added 15 points, while junior forward Teana Muldrow netted 12 points.

Both team overcame slow starts to the game, but West Virginia quickly jumped out to a 10-0 lead before the Jayhawks could get on the scoreboard. Senior forward Caelynn Manning-Allen delivered the first bucket of the night for Kansas and ending WVU’s run. Despite highlight worthy efforts defensively, KU trailed the Mountaineers, 20-10, after the first quarter.

Kansas’ defense continued to be a game-changer in the second period, holding West Virginia to 11 points in the latter 10 minutes of the first half. For the first time of the night, the Jayhawks outscored WVU, 14-11, in the second quarter, inching closer to an upset. Entering the contest, KU led the Big 12 in turnovers forced and Kansas’ defense continued to be a force to be reckoned, making WVU turn the ball over 13 times in the first half. The Mountaineers headed into the halftime break with a narrow lead, 31-24.

By halftime, Washington had reached double digits for the team-leading 11th time after recording 12 points in the first 20 minutes.

The momentum stayed with Kansas as the third quarter began. The Jayhawks defense continued to disrupt West Virginia’s offense and limited WVU to just eight points. Through the first four minutes the Mountaineers had four turnovers and were held scoreless, as the Jayhawks chipped away its deficit. KU’s defense paved the way for the Jayhawks to take its first lead of the game, and advantage they held on to for nearly three minutes. Even with all its efforts on the defensive end, Kansas headed to the final quarter trailing West Virginia, 39-37.

After enduring a low-scoring third period, the Mountaineers shook it off and held KU to a four-minute scoring drought, which allowed WVU to regain a few possessions on the Jayhawks. Sophomore guard Kylee Kopatich ended the scoreless streak for Kansas with a shot from long range. Each time KU applied pressure with a made 3-pointer, the Mountaineers had an answer to maintain their lead.

With the clock winding down closer to zero, Kansas down by four points was forced to foul in order to stop the clock and regain possession of the ball. With each foul came a trip to the free throw line for West Virginia. The Mountaineers made 13-of-16 attempts from the charity stripe to extend their lead to double digits and escape Kansas with a 62-51 victory.

Kansas heads back to the Lone Star State for a Sunday matchup with TCU on Jan. 22. Tipoff against the Horned Frogs is slated for 6 p.m., on FOX Sports Southwest and the Jayhawk Radio Network. The official online source for Kansas Athletics, Williams Education Fund contributions, tickets, merchandise, multimedia, photos and much, much more.