A fourth quarter resurgence had the Jayhawks on the brink of a comeback Wednesday night at West Virginia, before one of the hottest teams in the country sent Kansas back home with a 69-61 defeat.
A crossover and drive to the hoop from sophomore guard Zakiyah Franklin could’ve put KU’s women’s basketball team within two points of No. 19 WVU with 33 seconds remaining. But a slew of Mountaineers collapsed to the paint to surround Franklin. Esmery Martinez blocked her layup, and WVU turned the defensive stop into a transition hoop for Kysre Gondrezick, putting the home team up 65-59 with 28 seconds to play in Morgantown, W.Va.
KU turned a 10-point hole at WVU Coliseum with 2:11 left in the fourth into a four-point game before WVU (16-2 overall, 10-2 Big 12) wrapped up its 11th consecutive win in the final minute, also going 4-for-4 at the foul line.
“I was really proud of our toughness, our grit,” KU head coach Brandon Schneider said after the loss. “We competed really hard every single possession. And it put us in position to be in the game at the end.”
KU sophomore Holly Kersgieter led all scorers with a career-best 25 points in defeat. The 5-foot-10 guard from Sand Springs, Okla., shot 9-for-19 overall and 1-for-7 on 3-pointers, and added six rebounds, four steals and two assists to her stat line.
“Holly just kept on fighting,” Schneider said. “I know she was disappointed that she missed some 3’s that she had some pretty good looks at, but she played really hard and that’s a super physical team. To put up those kind of numbers against that kind of defense just speaks to her development and her progress as a player.”
After going 0-for-6 from 3-point range in the first half, the Jayhawks (7-10, 3-8) finally got a couple to fall in the third quarter. WVU already led by as many as 16 by the time Franklin (nine points, four assists) gave KU its first 3-pointer of the evening 3:47 into the second half. The Jayhawks went 4-for-16 from deep on the night.
Even so, they played a back and forth third quarter with WVU, trimming the lead of their ranked foe to seven late in the quarter. Jasmine Carson scored a layup in the final second of the third, giving the Mountaineers a 55-45 advantage entering the fourth.
The Jayhawks needed a stronger second quarter after going ice cold in the first. Though five turnovers kept them from making up more ground, the visitors shot 9-for-17 in the second, when Kersgieter scored 10 of her points, going 5-for-8, dishing two assists and swiping three steals in the period, as well.
KU edged WVU, 18-16, in the second, when the Mountaineers struggled with nine turnovers. The Jayhawks headed to halftime down 39-30.
During the final seven minutes of the first quarter, KU crashed offensively, going 1-for-16 from the floor, at one point missing nine shots in a row.
A six-point lead in the game’s opening minutes proved brief for KU on the road. Kersgieter scored KU’s first six points, with a pair of layups and two free throws. Ioanna Chatzileonti scored inside and Franklin converted another basket to give the Jayhawks a 4-for-4 start from the field and put WVU behind, 10-4, less than three minutes in.
However, WVU wasted no time seizing momentum. A 3-pointer from Gondrezick (19 points) at the 7:19 mark kickstarted a 15-0 Mountaineers response. WVU outscored KU, 19-2, to close the quarter and create an 11-point cushion entering the second.
The Jayhawks will hit the road again this weekend, traveling to face rival Kansas State in Manhattan on Saturday.