Slow start proves to be costly for Kansas at West Virginia

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MORGANTOWN, W. Va. – A slow start offensively plagued Kansas women’s basketball in its regular-season finale, as West Virginia capitalized on the cold-shooting Jayhawks’ first half to sweep the season series with a 73-54 victory on Monday night inside WVU Coliseum.
While the Jayhawks (8-21, 2-16 Big 12) began the game slow offensively, it was a tale of two halves for Kansas. KU outscored West Virginia (20-10, 8-10 Big 12) in the second half, 24-18, but the deficit from the opening 20 minutes was too much for the Jayhawks to mount a come-from-behind victory in their final game of the regular season.
For the 11th time in Big 12 Conference action, redshirt junior Jessica Washington led all scorers after an 18-point performance in Morgantown. Washington netted 14 of her 18 points in the second half and finished the game shooting 31.8 percent (7-of-22) from the field. She also grabbed four rebounds and dished out two assists. Senior forward Sydney Umeri added eight points, while sophomore guard Jayde Christopher contributed seven points.
Sophomore guard Tynice Martin led a quartet of Mountaineers in double figures with 17 points, while also recorded six boards. Junior forward Teana Muldrow finished just behind Martin in scoring with 15 points and grabbed 11 rebounds for a double-double. Junior forward Kristina King and junior guard Chania Ray rounded out the double-digit scorers with 13 and 11 points, respectively.
A defensive battle from the start, it took both teams a few possessions to get on the scoreboard, but Christopher ended the scoreless streak with a free throw. WVU would then go on a 10-3 run to take an early advantage, 10-4, with five minutes to play in the first quarter. Coming out the media timeout, West Virginia extended its lead with five unanswered points before senior forward Caelynn Manning-Allen broke up the run with a layup. The Mountaineers beat the buzzer with a last-second layup and ended the first quarter with a 24-8 lead over the Jayhawks.
KU opened the game shooting just 14 percent from the field and scored only eight points in the first 10 minutes of the game. West Virginia’s offense found its groove in the first 10 minutes and concluded the period shooting 67 percent from the floor, making 10 of its 15 attempts.
Through the first five minutes of the second quarter, the Mountaineers outscored Kansas, 6-2, as both teams worked to find some momentum on the offensive side of the court. Despite WVU being without top defender, senior forward Lanay Montgomery due to foul trouble, the Jayhawks were unable to capitalize offensively and close the scoring gap. Senior guard Timeka O’Neal sank a triple coming out of the second media timeout, but WVU had an answer for each attempt KU made to take the momentum. West Virginia headed into the locker room at halftime with a 41-18 advantage.
Towards the end of the second period, Kansas’ offense heated up scoring eight points in the final minutes of the half. Manning-Allen led the Jayhawks with five points, while Washington contributed four points. KU was held to just six field goals in the first half and connected on 21 percent of its attempts. Defensively, the Jayhawks forced seven turnovers in the opening 20 minutes and were able to score nine points off of those turnovers. The Mountaineers won the battle off the glass, outrebounding the Jayhawks 25-13, proving to be the difference on defense.  
To start the second half, Kansas and West Virginia traded buckets back-and-forth for the first four possessions each before the Mountaineers went on a 6-0 run to put WVU up, 53-26, with 4:14 left to play in the third period. Kansas ended its three minute scoring drought with a trip to the charity stripe for Washington. The Tulsa, Oklahoma native reached the double-figure scoring plateau for the 22nd time this season. Despite keeping the third quarter closer, West Virginia outscored the Jayhawks by one, 21-20, and took a 62-38 lead into the final quarter.
Much like the period before, Kansas and West Virginia traded buckets to start the fourth quarter. Washington sparked a 7-0 run for the Jayhawks over nearly four minutes, cutting WVU’s advantage, 70-51, with just under two minutes to play. Kansas outscored the Mountaineers, 16-11, in the final 10 minutes, but the deficit was too much to overcome in the second half and KU fell to West Virginia, 73-54, on the road.

Kansas heads to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma for the 2017 Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship. KU’s first-round matchup will air on FCS and the Jayhawk Radio Network on Friday, March 3, inside Chesapeake Energy Arena. The official online source for Kansas Athletics, Williams Education Fund contributions, tickets, merchandise, multimedia, photos and much, much more.