Women's Basketball, WVU Sports

WVU comes up short at the buzzer, as No. 16 Kansas State moves on to Big 12 semis with a 65-62 win

MORGANTOWN — J.J. Quinerly’s last-gasp 3-point shot looked good, even as it hit the left side of the rim and then rattled to the right.

From there, physics and gravity took over rather than justification.

Quinerly’s attempt from the corner rattled out late Saturday night and No. 16 Kansas State moved on to the Big 12 semifinals to face Texas following a thrilling 65-62 victory inside the T-Mobile Center in Kansas City, Mo.


What a moment it nearly was for Quinerly, who played all 40 minutes of the game with a sore right knee wrapped in a brace, but it never slowed her down in scoring 27 points on the night.

The junior from Norfolk, Va. has been through a roller-coaster ride as of late, from turning the ball over in the final moments two weeks ago in a one-point loss against Baylor to then injuring her knee a week later in the final game of the regular season.

Had that darned ball just stayed in that basket on Saturday, at the very least it would have meant the Mountaineers would have gone to overtime for a second time against the Wildcats (25-6) this season. In a grander scope, Quinerly would have had an ultimate buzzer-beater to lean on to help wipe clean those tougher moments.

“J.J. kind of got going and it took Jordan (Harrison) just a little bit, but then we kind of finally settled in,” WVU head coach Mark Kellogg said. “J.J. had the really good look there late for her that was almost in and would have forced overtime.”

While K-State moves on, WVU (24-7) will return to Morgantown with a week to rest before it is selected to play in the NCAA tournament.

That thought wasn’t on anyone’s mind, though, as this game unfolded.

WVU was hot from the start, making eight of its first 10 attempts of the game to take a 21-9 lead midway through the first quarter, but then missed 18 of its next 22 shots.

“I think for us we came out in the second quarter a little relaxed, a little too calm,” Quinerly said. “I mean, we are a calm group of girls probably all the time, but we’ve got to start coming into the game with that fire under us like we did in the first quarter.”

Behind All-American center Ayoka Lee, Kansas State battled back. The 6-foot-6 Lee finished with 22 points, 11 rebounds and three blocked shots, while dealing with foul trouble in the second half.

K-State followed Lee’s lead and everything the Wildcats accomplished offensively was in the paint and around the rim. By the time the Wildcats came back to take a 39-34 lead with 7:25 remaining in the third quarter, 34 of those points had come in the paint and they had yet to connect on a 3-pointer.

By the end of the third quarter, Lee had picked up her third foul and WVU’s defense began forcing turnovers, which turned into points at the other end.

Kyah Watson intercepted one pass in the final seconds of the third quarter and quickly flipped it ahead to Quinerly for one of her five 3-pointers to cut K-State’s lead to just 49-48 heading into the fourth.

“There were some runs both ways, the crowd got into it,” Kellogg said. “I thought there was a couple of times that I was looking at our team and waiting for them to respond, which they have done all year, and they did again tonight in a great way and gave ourselves an opportunity late.”

Quinerly followed that with another three to open the fourth to give WVU a 51-49 lead, but it was the only time the Mountaineers would hold a lead over the final 10 minutes.

Lee answered with a bucket in the paint and Gabby Gregory nailed a 3-pointer to give the Wildcats the lead back, but then Lee was called for her fourth foul with 7:55 remaining.

Back and forth both teams went. Gregory nailed another 3-pointer and then WVU’s Jayla Hemingway did the same. Eliza Maupin scored on a fast-break lay-up, but WVU’s Jordan Harrison came right back with an and-one three-point play on a drive to the basket.

After Harrison — she added 16 points for the Mountaineers — tied the game at 61, Lee came back into the game and gave K-State the lead for good with a basket in the paint with 2:46 left.

Both teams were hit with shot-clock violations and then K-State’s Serena Sundell hit a jumper along the baseline that gave K-State a 65-61 lead with 58 seconds left.

Quinerly was fouled and she made one free throw for the final score with 45.9 seconds remaining, but WVU had two shots to send the game into overtime. After forcing another shot-clock violation, WVU looked to Kylee Blacksten for a 3-pointer that hit off the back of the rim.

Lee was then fouled, but she missed both free throws, and Quinerly grabbed the rebound and called timeout with 2.2 seconds elft.

Hemingway stood in front of the WVU bench, as she inbounded the ball to Quinerly, who was curling around a screen. With both Gregory and Maupin guarding her, Quinerly took a dribble down to the corner and somehow got off a good look as the clock ticked to zero. The shot rattled hard between both sides of the rim before falling out.

Even so, the Mountaineers will be back in the NCAA tournament in two weeks, their second straight trip with a second new coach. WVU fell to Arizona in the first round of the NCAAs under former coach Dawn Plitzuweit last season. The Mountaineers will be back with Kellogg a year later.

The Mountaineers, according to ESPN’s Bracketology are currently projected as a No. 7 seed for the NCAA tournament.