MORGANTOWN, W. \Va. — As West Virginia felt the sting of a 56-54 loss to Northwestern in the third round of the WNIT, Tynice Martin gave the Mountaineers the biggest boost for next season.
“I want to start by saying that I will be coming back for my fifth year as a senior here at West Virginia to work on my game and to be one of the best players to ever play here at West Virginia,” said Martin.
She ended her junior season with a tough 6-of-21 shooting night for 17 points on Wednesday.
“It wasn’t a tough decision. I knew what had to be done. It was just the fact that do I want to spend a fifth year here or do I want to go make money? That was the only thing on my mind.”
WVU coach Mike Carey felt it was the best decision for the 5-foot-11 guard from Atlanta.
“I think it would benefit her to come back,” Carey said. “I think it would benefit her, because she needs to work on her ballhandling and some one-on-one moves. If you want my opinion, there are things she needs to work on. Her and I have discussed that.”
With 1,588 career points, Martin is 526 points shy of passing Cathy Parson as the school’s all-time leading scorer.
“She wants to be one of the best players to have ever played here,” Carey said. “She has that opportunity.”
The Mountaineers (22-11) had opportunities to put the game away early, up 18 in the first half.
But they shot 2-of-12 in the fourth quarter as Northwestern roared back.
“You can’t shoot like we did in the fourth quarter and win in a close game,” Carey said. “We had some good looks down the stretch.”
West Virginia led for all but the final 42 seconds, when Northwestern guard Lindsey Pulliam came off a screen and buried a foul-line jumper that gave the Wildcats (19-14) a 55-54 lead.
It was the second straight comeback for the Wildcats, who rallied from 16 down to beat Toledo.
“We seem to tempt the devil all the time in this tournament,” Northwestern coach Joe McKeown said. “We’re just resilient. We bounced back all year in the Big Ten. I think tonight just showed the kind of fight we had.”
On its next possession, West Virginia lost possession on a jump ball and then had to foul four times to reach the bonus and make Northwestern shoot free throws. Pulliam, who finished with 15 points and eight rebounds, made one at the line for the 56-54 advantage with 14.4 seconds left and Carey called a timeout.
WVU first went inside to freshman Kari Niblack, who finished with 14 points and six rebounds, but she had the ball knocked out of bounds by Northwestern with 7.7 seconds remaining.
“I probably should have called another timeout,” Carey said.
Instead, Lucky Rudd attempted to inbounds the ball, but could find no one open. She tried to throw her pass to Naomi Davenport, but Veronica Burton tipped the ball and raced down the court and dribbled out the final seconds.
“I thought it was a foul, because you can’t go over a player and I was going up,” said Davenport, who concluded her career with 13 points and nine rebounds. “She can’t go over me, but they didn’t call it and she got her hand on it and tipped it away and I couldn’t recover. It was tough.”
Northwestern forward Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpanah finished with 12 points and 19 rebounds.
“She was getting every offensive rebound,” Davenport said. “That’s what kept them in the game.”
Added Carey: “We didn’t do a good job of executing down the stretch on offense or defense We should have won this game. We led the whole dang game, but we kept taking times off and turning it over. It’s just a shame.”