MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Things were so comfortable for West Virginia on Sunday afternoon that even Tynice Martin managed to steal some rest.
Martin had played 234 of West Virginia’s 240 minutes since losing fellow guard Katrina Pardee to an ankle injury last month. This time she watched the final four minutes of a 71-50 win over Kansas.
“It was kind of lovely,” Martin said. “I don’t get that much rest. I don’t say I try to enjoy it, but I enjoy it. That is a great break.”
Martin still led all scorers with 22 points, going 6-for-13 from the field and 9-for-10 from the free-throw line. She is averaging 20.4 points per game since Pardee’s absence knocked the team down to just eight able-bodied players. West Virginia (16-5, 7-3 Big 12) has gone 6-1 without Pardee and is on the verge of breaking back into the Top 25.
“She’s really good,” said Kansas coach Brandon Schneider. “It would be a crying shame if someone didn’t pick her in the first round [of the WNBA Draft] and get her out of this league.”
Schneider broke into a grin after that pronouncement, though surely he isn’t the only Big 12 coach unexcited by the prospect of another year dealing with Martin.
She wasn’t the only problem for the Jayhawks. Freshman point guard Madisen Smith helped set the tone defensively as Kansas (12-8, 2-7) shot 32 percent from the field and scored only six points in the fourth quarter.
“Smith makes a real difference initiating pressure on the ball and allows them to be real physical behind her,” Schneider said.
Despite the shortened bench, West Virginia hasn’t shied away from playing physical man-to-man defense. Smith has been crucial stopping penetration.
“We’re holding a lot of teams under 40-percent shooting only playing six, seven people,” said West Virginia coach Mike Carey. “I’ve been happy for our defense.”
Guard Lucky Rudd, who scored 13 points, said the Mountaineers aren’t going to sacrifice defensive aggression even though the team can ill afford to get into foul trouble.
“We know that’s how we play defense,” Rudd said. “We can’t use having eight players as an excuse. We have to get up the lane and play physical. It’s no excuse at all.”
Austin Richardson, the lone Kansas player in double figures with 10 points, fouled out after 12 minutes.
West Virginia remained tied for third place in the Big 12 on a weekend in which the league’s top five teams all won.