WEST PALM BEACH, Fla .– The University of West Virginia women’s basketball used a dominant second half to defeat Michigan State 74-54 on Tuesday afternoon at University Keizer of West Palm Beach, to wrap up the game at the 2021 West Palm Beach Invitational.
After falling 18-12 in the first quarter against Michigan State, the Mountaineers stepped on the gas and outscored the Spartans, 62-36, in the final three quarters of the competition. WVU pulled at least 50% of the ground during each of these periods, with 61.5% in the fourth quarter. Additionally, the Mountaineer defense kept the MSU below 33.3% from the ground throughout the game, with 18.2% in the second quarter.
West Virginia (7-3, 0-0 Big 12) was led by junior forward Esmery Martinez, who gave up a double-double of 21 points and 11 rebounds in the victory. Fifth year senior center Ejiofor blessing tallied 12 rebounds in the competition to beat WVU on the glass, while the junior guard KK Deans tallied a career-high 10 assists in the win. Of note, Deans became the first mountaineer since Naomi Davenport against Coppin State on November 6, 2018, to finish with at least 10 assists in a game.
After the Mountaineers handled the opening tip, the senior forward Kari Ninoir took the ball and only scored 16 seconds into the game. Michigan State tied the game shortly thereafter and both teams started to play with the header. A pair of 3 from the junior guard Jayla hemingway and Martinez created a four-point split for West Virginia at 5.30am, but the Spartans hit back with five points of their own to take an 11-10 lead in the first media timeout.
Deans came out of the break to regain the lead, but it ended up being the last quarterback goal for the Mountaineers. Across the field, Michigan State scored seven points after the timeout as WVU trailed 18-12 at the end of the first.
West Virginia started the second quarter 6-0 to tie the game. The two teams traded one basket each over the following possessions to keep the game tied at 20-20 until the second media break.
The Mountaineers came out of the timeout on a 5-0 run, which included a 3-point main guard Jasmin carson, to take the lead for the remainder of the half. WVU dominated Michigan State, 11-9, in the 4:55 halftime final and limited the Spartans to one field goal in the 4:05 final. The two-led West Virginia made their way to the locker room.
WVU started the second half quickly and scored an 8-2, which forced Michigan State to call the time out with 6:31 left in the quarter. Even after the break, the Mountaineers’ offense continued to roll, adding six more points to force another MSU stoppage. West Virginia led, 45-31, with 5:08 left in the third.
Michigan State scored to thwart the Mountaineers’ assault after the break, but WVU continued to attack. Both teams scored seven points in the home stretch, as West Virginia led by 11 points before the final 10 minutes of action.
Both teams played even in the first 2 minutes 38 seconds of the fourth quarter, each scoring a score, but WVU managed a 7-2 run in the media to shatter their advantage. The Mountaineers led by 16 with 5:01 to go.
The final five minutes of the game saw the Mountaineers seal the victory, as West Virginia scored 11 points and led up to 22 points in that streak. WVU has scored 21 or more points in each of the last two quarters and held Michigan State 25 points in the second half to move to 7-3 this season.
West Virginia ended the game shooting 31 of 64 (48.4%) from the floor and scored five 3-pointers. The Mountaineers passed the Spartans, 41-37, and scored 42 of their 74 points in the paint. Additionally, the WVU bench scored 36 points in the contest, marking the fifth time this season that the Mountaineer reserves have finished with 30 or more in a game.
After the holidays, West Virginia returns to Morgantown on Wednesday, December 29, when the Mountaineers host the Maryland Eastern Shore at the WVU Coliseum. The WVU contest against the Hawks kicks off at 7 p.m. ET and airs on Big 12 Now on ESPN +.