MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — After three consecutive wins, the West Virginia women’s basketball team is strengthening its positioning for an NCAA at-large bid.
A fourth straight victory, in Saturday’s regular-season finale against top-ranked Baylor, would make WVU impossible for the selection committee to ignore.
The Mountaineers continued their late-season push Tuesday night by rallying to beat Kansas State 66-57. With an RPI of 42 entering the game, WVU figures to be in contention to make the women’s field.
Ayana Dunning and Christal Caldwell scored 15 points apiece, while Jess Harlee added 11 and Averee Fields had 10 for WVU (17-10, 9-7 Big 12), which recovered from a 31-23 halftime deficit.
“In the second half, I thought we played harder,” said West Virginia coach Mike Carey. “Christal Caldwell hit some big shots and Yaya did some scoring for us and did some good stuff. Jess Harlee does it on both ends for us and she is playing very well right now. Linda Stepney had eight points and that was big for us because they weren’t guarding her.
Fields, Dunning, Harlee and Crystal Leary each pulled down seven rebounds, helping the Mountaineers to a 41-35 rebounding advantage.
Brittany Chambers finished with 36 points for K-State (13-15, 4-12).
After the Mountaineers went on an 11-3 run to tie the game at 34-34, K-State responded with three consecutive 3s to stretch the lead back out to 43-36 with 13:10 remaining. But Harlee hit a 3-point jumper from the left wing, followed by a Leary steal for a layup to start an 18-4 run that put WVU in control, 54-47.
“I was a little disappointed because we tied them up at 34-34 in the second half and then we let them go up seven and we weren’t playing hard and then we had to get back into it,” Carey said. “Overall, in the second half, we played a lot better than the first half.”
The Wildcats forced 10 WVU turnovers and limited WVU to only one assist in the opening half. However, WVU reversed course with only one turnover and 10 assists in the second half. Kansas State totaled 12 turnovers and eight assists.
The Mountaineers host defending national champion and No. 1 Baylor on Saturday at 7 p.m., at the WVU Coliseum. The game will be broadcasted by Fox Sports Net and will air live on ROOT Sports Pittsburgh.