In neck-and-neck thriller, KU falls to W. Virginia

Kansas’ Jessica Washington (3) wrestles the ball from West Virginia’s Teana Muldrow (11) late in the third quarter of Wednesday night’s game. West Virginia won, 62-51.

Just days after a lopsided loss to the second best team in the country, the Kansas women’s basketball team was tasked with yet another ranked opponent.

KU responded by pushing No. 24 West Virginia to the brink, before falling, 62-51, Wednesday at Allen Fieldhouse. With the loss, the Jayhawks have now lost seven straight games, including six by nationally-ranked opponents.

“That’s the hardest our team has played since I’ve been the head coach here,” second-year coach Brandon Schneider said. “I thought they played their tails off. I couldn’t be more proud of their effort. But that has to be the standard, because that’s something we can control.”

Kansas (6-12, 0-7) has had a treacherous start to the conference slate as Schneider seeks his first Big 12 regular season victory. And for a brief moment, it appeared the Mountaineers might just give it to him.

In the third quarter, junior guard Jessica Washington drove through the lane and kicked it out to a wide open McKenzie Calvert, who buried a baseline triple. The sophomore’s 3-pointer gave Kansas a 35-34 advantage with 4:06 left in the third period.

Calvert’s trey gave Kansas its first lead in a game since the team’s last victory, an overtime win against UC Riverside on Dec. 21. In fact, KU has only been tied with its opposition on four different occasions during this seven-game skid — one of which was against West Virginia.

“In those situations, I’m not really thinking about having a lead in the third quarter,” Schneider said. “We are trying to have a lead where we can ice the game. I thought our team really trusted the message the last couple days, that if we would give tremendous effort, that we would have a chance.”

The lead was shortlived, however, as the Mountaineers were able to respond just like any other conference contender should. WVU closed the period on a 5-2 run, including a 3-pointer by sophomore Tynice Martin in the closing seconds. Martin was one of three double-digit scorers for the visitors, leading the way with 21 points.

West Virginia continued to force it in the interior in the final period, outscoring Kansas 23-14 in the final quarter to close it out. The win snapped a two-game skid for WVU, which has a road meeting with No. 2 Baylor this weekend.

“Give Kansas a lot of credit, they played harder,” West Virginia coach Mike Carey said. “It wasn’t a real pretty game. We had a lot of turnovers, I don’t understand it. But give them credit, they pressured us to turn it over. Kansas has gotten a lot better.”

Kansas’ effort was perhaps even more impressive after falling behind double-digits in the first four minutes of action.

The Jayhawks were able to keep the deficit at 10 at the end of the first period, before cutting it to four points late in the first half. The Mountaineers then took advantage of a turnover, hitting a 3-pointer on the other end to go into the intermission up, 31-24.

Washington led the way with 24 points for the Jayhawks on 22 shot attempts. She was one of two starters to score. Calvert finished with 12 points.

“I thought we were really tentative,” Schneider said. “Coming off playing Baylor, where you are hesitant any time you attack. We had to remind them tonight that we are not playing Baylor. We might have a few more opportunities in the paint.”

Kansas will travel to TCU at 6:00 p.m. Sunday.

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