MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Years from now, the record books will show West Virginia advanced to the third round of the WNIT with a 64-57 victory against Villanova.
A closer look told a little different story, as it was the Mountaineers’ trio of Naomi Davenport, Tynice Martin and Kari Niblack that guided WVU to the third round.
Until 1:55 remained in the third quarter, they were the only players who scored for West Virginia (22-10).
Until the final minutes of the second quarter, Niblack was outrebounding the Wildcats (19-13) by herself.
“Sure,” West Virginia coach Mike Carey said. “I’ve got a lot of concerns. We don’t have enough time to go over all of my concerns.”
Davenport, Martin and Niblack ultimately combined for 61 of the Mountaineers’ points and 33 of their 41 rebounds.
“Regardless of who scores points, everyone is going to benefit from it,” said Martin, who finished with 23 points and nine rebounds. “I know Naomi and I are going to do what we do. Whoever steps up after that is a plus.”
With the game on the line, it was Davenport and Martin who hooked up for the game’s top play, a coast-to-coast drive from Davenport that ended with the senior flipping the ball to Martin for an and-one lay-up that Martin converted into a three-point play.
“Whenever I got the rebound, I knew we needed to push the ball, because we hadn’t done well in transition lately,” said Davenport, who finished with a game-high 25 points and added eight rebounds.
Martin said she stayed on Davenport’s right side and was yelling that she was open.
“I think it gave us a spark,” Davenport said. “An and-one always gets the crowd going and it gets your teammates going. That’s what led us to going on a little run.”
Martin’s and-one turned a close 54-51 lead into a 57-51 cushion.
Niblack, who recorded her fifth double-double of the season with 13 points and 16 rebounds, added two free throws on the next possession. Then Martin tipped in a miss that made it 61-53 with 2:50 left.
The Mountaineers will host Northwestern (18-14) on Wednesday for the right to advance to the WNIT quarterfinals for a second consecutive season.
“You know what? People out there couldn’t care less that we didn’t get into the NCAAs,” Carey said. “The only ones who cares is us. I don’t think this [win] makes any statement.
“I’m proud of our girls for playing hard. I’m proud of our players. I learned a long time ago to take care of us and control the things you can control and don’t worry about the things you can’t control. We’re trying to win this tournament.”
West Virginia led by as many as 15 in the first half, but Villanova made its first eight shots to begin the third quarter and got as close as 52-51 with 5:33 remaining.
That’s when Martin scored on a jumper and then Davenport rebounded Jannah Tucker’s miss — “I needed to stop [Tucker] from shooting a three. She was a good shooter,” Davenport said. — and drove the length of the floor before finding Martin for the score.
“It started on the defensive end,” Carey said. “For us to get the break, it was because of our defense and we did a good job of running and filling the lanes.”
Tucker finished 5-of-11 from 3-point range and scored 21 points for Villanova (19-13), which finished 10-of-29 from 3.
West Virginia finished with a 41-33 advantage on the boards.