After missing out on an NCAA tournament bid the last two seasons, the West Virginia Mountaineers made a statement that they are back, improving to 6-1 on the year following a 71-65 upset win Sunday on the road at No. 10 Mississippi State.
The loss was Mississippi State’s first at Humphrey Coliseum in Starkville, Mississippi to a team outside of the SEC in five years, with the Bulldogs' 45-game non-conference winning streak coming to an end. Mississippi State’s previous non-conference loss at home came in 2014 when they dropped a game to South Florida in the semifinals of the WNIT. That was two years prior to their run to two Women’s Final Fours and consecutive SEC championships.
Sunday's Big 12/SEC Challenge win marks the highest-ranked opponent that West Virginia has defeated since March 6, 2017, when the Mountaineers knocked off then-No. 2 Baylor in the 2017 Big 12 Tournament Championship. It's also the highest-ranked non-conference opponent the Mountaineers have defeated in program history.
In the win over Mississippi State, West Virginia was led by a career-high 17 points from freshman guard Kirsten Deans, who shot 4-of-8 from the field and 6-of-6 from the free-throw line. Sophomore forward Kari Niblack collected her first double-double of the season with 12 points and 11 rebounds. Redshirt junior guard Kysre Gondrezick notched her seventh double-figure scoring performance of the year, adding 16 points. Also scoring in double figures was redshirt senior guard Tynice Martin, who scored 13 points and dished out four assists.
West Virginia dominated the glass all game long, holding a 46-34 advantage on the boards and grabbing 17 offensive rebounds. The Mountaineers shot 40.6 percent (26-of-64) from the field and 62.5 percent (15-of-24) from the free-throw line. Mississippi State struggled from the free-throw line, shooting 50 percent (15-30), while the Bulldogs went 2-of-8 (25 percent) from 3-point range. Mississippi State also ended with 17 turnovers in the game, which West Virginia turned into 26 points compared to just 12 points off turnovers for the Bulldogs.
In the latest Associated Press Top 25 poll, announced Monday, West Virginia checked in at No. 22, with its only loss this season coming against Creighton (82-75) on Thanksgiving Day in Cancun, Mexico.
The Mountaineers return to action on Sunday, Dec. 15, as the team travels to Charleston, West Virginia, to face off with Norfolk State at the Charleston Coliseum & Convention Center.