PREVIEW: Women’s basketball returns to action after nearly a month without play

Junior guard Christianna Carr sprints toward the basket in K-State's 90-79 victory over West Virginia on Feb. 27, 2019. (File photo by Brooke Barrett | Collegian Media Group)

The women’s basketball team (5-4, 0-2) takes the court on Wednesday night, playing West Virginia (10-2, 4-2) in Morgantown, West Virginia. This is the first time the Wildcats will play this year after postponing the team’s first five games of 2021 because of COVID-19.

The Wildcat’s last game came just under a month ago, falling to at-the-time No. 22 Texas 62-52 on Dec. 21, 2020. Kansas State comes into Wednesday night’s matchup with a 5-4 record but is still looking for the first victory in Big 12 Conference play.

The Mountaineers postponed two games and canceled another this year because of COVID-19 precautions as well.

However, WVU will be anything but rusty. The Mountaineers won two games in the last week, beating Oklahoma State on Saturday 67-59 and Texas Tech on Wednesday 83-78. Riding a five-game win streak at the moment, this team is hot — even receiving votes in the latest AP top 25.

The Wildcats are the underdogs heading into WVU Coliseum on Wednesday night.

Stopping West Virginia

It all starts with Kysre Gondrezick. The 5-foot-9 redshirt senior averages over 20 points per game coming into Wednesday’s matchup. Gondrezick hardly ever leaves the court for WVU, averaging over 37 minutes per game.

In both WVU losses this year, Gondrezick didn’t lead the Mountaineers in scoring. In their worst defeat, a 20-point loss to Baylor on Dec. 10, the Bears kept her from even hitting double-digits.

Finding a way to slow down the scoring of the veteran guard is crucial if K-State wants to make this one a game.

Shutting down the Mountaineers is not as simple as shutting down the lead scorer. In fact, West Virginia won their last game without Gondrezick.

So far this season, West Virginia has three other players averaging double digits in scoring.

The Mountaineers have plenty of starters who can do damage, but in both of their losses this year, WVU struggled to get any help from their bench. In fact, they’ve only gotten exactly four bench points in each loss this season.

If K-State wants to beat West Virginia, they will need to shut down the Mountaineer starters.

In both WVU losses, the Mountaineers turned the ball over more than usual. Turnovers against Oklahoma State (18) and Baylor (19) played a factor in the two defeats they’ve suffered.

Success Factors for the Wildcats

Knowing K-State will want to force West Virginia to turn the ball over, it is more important for the Wildcats to limit the times they turn it over themselves, although K-State struggles in this field. K-State averages 18.4 turnovers per game while forcing less than 12 per game from their opponents.

K-State continues to rebound well. K-State is out-rebounding their opponents by almost six boards per game.

Beating WVU on the glass could keep this one close. This won’t be easy though, since Gondrezick and the other Mountaineers are dominant on the boards. West Virginia is out-rebounding their opponents by nine rebounds per game.

Lastly, K-State averages only two players in double-digit scoring compared to WVU’s four. Sophomore Ayoka Lee is the Wildcats’ leader in points per game with almost 17 points.

West Virginia typically starts five players that are 6-foot-2 or shorter. The two biggest players, Rochelle Norris and Blessing Ejiofor who are both 6-foot-5, average only 14 and nine minutes per game, respectively.

Giving the ball to Lee as much as possible on Wednesday will force West Virginia to guard Lee with a mismatched player often or put in players who don’t typically see many minutes.

Tipoff for the Wildcat’s return to action is 6 p.m. Wednesday. The game can be streamed on Big 12 Now on ESPN+ and heard on the K-State Sports Network.