Martinez, No. 19 WVU women hold off TCU, Heard 81-78

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MORGANTOWN, W. Va. — Esmery Martinez scored 21 points and grabbed 12 rebounds and No. 19 West Virginia overcame a 38-point performance by Lauren Heard and held on to defeat TCU 81-78 on Saturday.

Heard, whose previous career high was 34 when West Virginia won the first meeting 79-70, kept the Horned Frogs in the game but after Kirsten Deans made 1 of 2 free throws with 11 seconds left, TCU couldn’t get off a potential tying shot.

Deans scored 15 points and Kysre Gondrezick, who had 30 in the last meeting, added 14 for the Mountaineers (17-3, 11-3 Big 12 Conference), who were coming off a loss to Oklahoma that ended their 11-game winning streak.

Heard was 12 of 20 from the field, making 4 of 5 from 3-point range, and 10 of 15 from the foul line to push her career total for points to 1,448, tied for eighth on the TCU career list. She also had nine rebounds and five assists.

Tavy Diggs added 13 points for the Horned Frogs (8-11, 3-11) and Michelle Berry 10.

Gondrezick hit a 3-pointer to start a 13-0 run to end the first quarter that put the Mountaineers on top 24-19. Heard made a layup in the middle of the second quarter to give TCU its last lead at 28-27. Gondrezick scored the last five in a 9-0 burst but Heard scored 7 of 8 in a run for a tie at 36. But that was the last tie as West Virginia went up 42-38 at the half.

The lead reached 13 in the middle of the third quarter but Berry hit her two 3s in the opening 93 seconds of the fourth quarter and the game stayed tight the rest of the way.

West Virginia plays at Iowa State on Wednesday when Oklahoma visits TCU.

No. 2 Baylor set to resume play Feb. 23 after COVID-19 pause

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WACO, Texas — No. 2 Baylor is set to resume the season Feb. 23 following a six-game hiatus that started because of COVID-19 protocols and there is plenty of uncertainty over the rest of the regular season.

The Bears are scheduled to play Iowa State at home after the Big 12 announced the postponement of Saturday’s home game against Oklahoma State. The conference didn’t specify whether the Oklahoma State postponement was over COVID-19 issues or the wintry weather affecting Texas.

Baylor hasn’t played since matching the best start in school history at 17-0 with an 83-69 win over No. 12 Texas on Feb. 2. If the current schedule holds, the Bears (9-0 in the Big 12) will go three weeks between games.

There is just one other scheduled game for Baylor at the moment: home against No. 13 West Virginia on Feb. 25. That game has been rescheduled twice.

The Bears have six other games that could be rescheduled, but the school says not all of them will be. The conference has an extra week before the Big 12 tournament to try to play postponed games.

Baylor’s unscheduled home games include Texas, TCU, 15th-ranked Texas Tech and Oklahoma State. The road games that could be rescheduled are No. 9 Oklahoma and West Virginia.

Gonzaga, Baylor sit atop AP Top 25; Kansas returns at No. 23

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The voters in The Associated Press men’s college basketball poll are lined up with the committee that will select the NCAA Tournament field when it comes to which five teams are the nation’s best.

Agreeing on the order beyond that isn’t as simple.

Top-ranked Gonzaga and No. 2 Baylor remained atop Monday’s latest AP Top 25, where they have been for all 13 polls this season. And after Illinois rose one spot to No. 5, that put the top of the AP poll in sync with the initial rankings of the top 16 seeds released Saturday by the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Committee.

Among teams that didn’t lose last week, AP voters were a bit higher on No. 7 Virginia (seeded ninth), No. 9 Oklahoma (12th), No. 11 Iowa (13th) and No. 12 Texas (15th) following wins that came later Saturday. In addition, Alabama rose three spots to No. 8 in the AP poll to pull closer to the committee’s seeding of seventh overall shortly before the Crimson Tide scored 115 points in a win over against Georgia.

Sixth-ranked Houston (seeded eighth) didn’t play after the committee released its rankings.

THE TOP TIER

Coach Mark Few’s Bulldogs received 59 of 64 first-place votes in the new AP Top 25, while Scott Drew’s Bears claimed the other five. Next came three straight Big Ten teams, starting with No. 3 Michigan and No. 4 Ohio State as the other No. 1 seeds in the selection committee’s rankings.

Illinois climbed to the top 5 for the second time this season, the other coming in late November, for the program’s highest ranking since reaching No. 1 during the 2004-05 season. The Illini dipped to No. 22 by January but have won five straight, including against Iowa and No. 21 Wisconsin.

RISING

No. 14 Creighton had the week’s biggest climb, jumping five spots after a weekend win over Villanova. The Bluejays have won six of seven since a Jan. 20 loss to Providence.

No. 11 Iowa climbed four spots after a pair of Big Ten wins, first against a ranked Rutgers team at home. Then came Saturday’s 30-point win at Michigan State, the worst home loss in coach Tom Izzo’s tenure with the Spartans.

In all, 11 teams climbed from last week’s poll.

SLIDING

No. 20 Missouri took the biggest tumble, falling 10 spots after losses at Mississippi and at home to Arkansas in Southeastern Conference play last week. The Tigers had cracked the top 10 last week for the first time since December 2012.

No. 15 Texas Tech fell eight spots after losing at home to No. 13 West Virginia, while No. 10 Villanova fell five spots after its loss to Creighton.

STATUS QUO

Beyond the top four, No. 18 Virginia Tech, No. 21 Wisconsin and No. 22 Loyola Chicago also remained in their positions from last week.

WELCOME

Kansas’ streak-breaking absence from the AP Top 25 was a short one.

The Jayhawks fell out of last week’s poll for the first time in 12 years. But they immediately beat a ranked Oklahoma State team to start the week, then added two wins over Iowa State to jump back in at No. 23.

Kansas was one of three new additions to this week’s poll, joined by No. 24 Arkansas and No. 25 San Diego State. It marked the Razorbacks’ first appearance since January 2018, while the Aztecs spent two weeks in the poll in December.

FAREWELL (FOR NOW)

Oklahoma State (No. 23), Purdue (No. 24) and Rutgers (No. 25) fell out of the poll.

CONFERENCE WATCH

The Big 12 led the way with six ranked teams after having a national-best five teams in the NCAA selection committee’s rankings. The Big Ten was next with five ranked teams, while the SEC had four and the Atlantic Coast Conference had three.

Cunningham’s 15 lead No. 23 Oklahoma St. past Kansas St.

Rob Ferguson-USA TODAY Sports
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STILLWATER, Okla. — Cade Cunningham’s great moments helped Oklahoma State pull through against Kansas State.

Cunningham, the freshman guard who leads the Big 12 Conference in scoring, had 15 points to help the 23rd-ranked Cowboys defeat the Wildcats 67-60 on Saturday.

Rondel Walker scored 10 points in his first start of the season and Bryce Williams added 10 for the Cowboys (13-6, 6-6 Big 12).

Temperatures that hovered around 10 degrees Fahrenheit (minus-12 Celsius) made for a sparse crowd, but Cunningham rewarded those who showed up. From halfcourt, he hit a streaking Williams with a perfect bounce pass between two Kansas State defenders. Williams finished with a layup to give the Cowboys a 19-12 lead.

Minutes later, Oklahoma State got loose on a fast break, and Walker lobbed to Cunningham, whose throwdown over Kansas State’s Rudi Williams gave Oklahoma State a 24-14 edge.

“I know it’s probably already on Twitter somewhere,” Walker said.

Those plays sparked the Cowboys and helped them take a 35-19 lead at the break. Oklahoma State held Kansas State to 25% shooting in the first half.

“I thought our defensive focus to start the game was excellent, and it carried us on to victory today,” Cowboys coach Mike Boynton said.

Kansas State made a push early in the second half. A 3-pointer by Pack cut Oklahoma State’s lead to 41-35, and a dunk by Kaosi Ezeagu made it a four-point game.

Cunningham answered with a 3-pointer to spark a 7-2 run that put the Cowboys back in control.

Boynton said he was glad to see his team fight through the run to achieve its goal.

“It’s kind of the dog days,” Boynton said. “Postseason is still a little ways away, but there’s still enough games that you’ve got to have the right to focus on to win.”

Kansas State coach Bruce Weber said the Wildcats didn’t have much left after an 80-77 loss to No. 13 Texas on Tuesday.

“We came back Thursday and Friday and just did not have good practices,” Weber said. “It was the first time maybe in – I don’t even know when, to be honest – maybe way back early – that we didn’t have energy that we needed and emotion that we needed to prepare.”

Weber said his players continue to hang tough, despite not getting favorable results.

“It wasn’t that they didn’t try,” Weber said. “They just had no energy. They had no emotion. Maybe just those games, those hard-fought games – it finally took a toll on our guys.”

BIG PICTURE

Kansas State: The Wildcats had the close call against Texas and outscored Oklahoma State 41-32 in the second half on Saturday. They are showing signs of improvement.

Oklahoma State: The Cowboys were dominant defensively in the first half, but they allowed the Wildcats to shoot 55% after the break. Oklahoma State will need to close better to make noise in March.

STAT LINES

Oklahoma State’s Kalib Boone had another strong rebounding performance on Saturday.

The 6-foot-9 sophomore had nine rebounds, the third time in his past five games that he’s had at least that many. His rebounding average over that five-game stretch is 8.6.

MISSING LIKEKELE

Isaac Likekele, Oklahoma State’s second-leading scorer, sat out with a foot injury.

Walker stepped into the starting lineup and had 10 points and six rebounds.

“I just felt like it was another day,” Walker said. “Really was no different. My job was today was to come in and give a spark immediately instead of off the bench.”

UP NEXT

Kansas State hosts Kansas on Wednesday.

Oklahoma State hosts Iowa State on Tuesday.

McCormack helps unranked KU beat No. 23 Oklahoma St. 78-66

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
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LAWRENCE, Kan. — It took the end of a record 231 consecutive weeks in the Top 25 for Kansas to play like a ranked team again.

After falling out of the poll for the first time since February 2009 earlier in the day, the Jayhawks leaned on big man David McCormack and a defense that forced No. 23 Oklahoma State into 19 turnovers to roll to a 78-66 victory Monday night.

“Everybody has pride,” the Jayhawks’ Marcus Garrett said, “and seeing that? It just gave us some extra fire.”

McCormack had all but two of his 23 points after halftime to go with 10 rebounds, and Garrett scored 17 points while drawing eight fouls on drives to the basket. Christian Braun added 15 points, Jalen Wilson had 11 and Ochai Agbaji 10 for the Jayhawks (13-7, 7-5 Big 12), who climbed to No. 3 early in the season but had lost five of their last seven.

“We said it was a non-negotiable game,” McCormack said. “We were back home. We have to make sure we get these wins.”

The Jayhawks forced Oklahoma State star Cade Cunningham into committing seven turnovers while committing four fouls, and the Cowboys (12-6, 5-6) finished with 18 turnovers as a team in a haphazard effort on both ends of the floor.

“Looking at the numbers the last couple games, I probably lead the country in turnovers,” Cunningham said. “I had the ball in my hands a bunch throughout the game. I’m asked to make a plot of plays – that’s what I asked for. I want the ball in my hands. I have to limit those turnovers and help us get shots.”

Cunningham finished with 26 points but was just 7 of 18 from the field, and fellow freshman Avery Anderson III had 13 points but also committed four turnovers, as the Cowboys allowed a 28-25 game at the break to get away from them.

“I don’t look to blame anybody but ourselves,” Oklahoma State guard Isaac Likekele said.

Early on, the Jayhawks looked like a team deserving of their ranking – or lack thereof – when they missed 13 of their first 15 field-goal attempts and had as many turnovers (five) as points through the first eight minutes of the game.

Somehow they manage to scratch out that meager halftime lead.

That’s because the Cowboys were even worse on offense. Cunningham had four of their 12 first-half turnovers, they went 1 of 8 from beyond the arc and failed to score a single second-chance point despite hanging tough on the boards.

McCormack, who poured in 24 points when the teams met last month in Stillwater, was 1-for-7 shooting in the first half. But the 6-foot-11 forward began to assert himself against center-less Oklahoma State in the second half, scoring an array of lay-ins and baby hooks to push the Jayhawks to their biggest lead at 41-32 with 15 minutes to go.

The Cowboys got within four before Kansas solved their zone defense.

McCormack was the linchpin of that effort, too. The Jayhawks kept getting him the ball in the middle, forcing the Cowboys to collapse and leaving the big man open. It was 58-52 when McCormack fed Wilson for an easy bucket, then he added a put-back of his own a couple minutes later to make it 65-55 with 4 minutes left.

The Jayhawks managed to hold Oklahoma State off the rest of the way.

“The second half we probably didn’t guard as well but the lid came off and we shot a lot better,” Jayhawks coach Bill Self said. “We got to figure out how to play better early. I told our guys, we were up three and we should have been up 12 at halftime. You talk about unforced errors. … But there were some good things for a team that was really pressing.”

BIG PICTURE

Oklahoma State was 7 of 26 from beyond the arc, often settling for outside shots rather than going to the rim – where the Cowboys routinely drew fouls. In fact, Cunningham had eight of his points at the free-throw line.

Kansas won the game with its defense. On the other end, the Jayhawks committed 19 turnovers of their own, and the only efficient production they got came from McCormack in the post. They were 5 of 15 from beyond the 3-point line, and that included a shot clock-beating heave by Braun in the final minute.

UP NEXT

The Cowboys play Kansas State on Saturday.

The Jayhawks welcome Iowa State on Thursday night.

NaLyssa Smith another double-double as No. 8 Baylor beats KU

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WACO, Texas — NaLyssa Smith had her 21st career double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds, and No. 8 Baylor beat Kansas 83-50 on Thursday night.

Smith has three double-doubles in a row, and seven in her last eight games.

“Yeah, I feel like in quarantine and the time we had off, I worked a lot on perimeter shots and just ballhandling and little things like that to expand my game,” Smith said. “So yeah, when you bring a lot more to the table, it’s going to be harder to guard.”

DiJonai Carrington had 17 points for the Lady Bears (13-2, 8-1 Big 12). Moon Ursin, a senior in her first season as a starter for Baylor, had 16 points for her seventh double-digit scoring game in a row.

Holly Kersgieter had 21 points with three 3-pointers to lead Kansas (6-9, 2-7), which has lost four games in a row and seven of eight.

Baylor led throughout after Queen Egbo, who finished with 11 rebounds, made three jumpers in the first 1:32 of the game. A jumper by Smith made it 8-0 on the way to a 13-point lead after the first quarter.

A jumper by Kersgieter with 1:34 left in the second quarter got the Jayhawks within 35-26, but they got no closer.

Ursin converted a three-point play on the next possession and Baylor maintained a double-digit lead the rest of the game, going ahead 63-38 when Caitlin Bickle made a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to end the third quarter.

Baylor has won 14 in a row against the Jayhawks, and is 32-2 against them in coach Kim Mulkey’s 21 seasons.

CARRINGTON’S COMEBACK

Carrington, a graduate transfer from Stanford, has had consecutive 17-point games since coming back from missing four games in a row because of COVID-19 protocols.

“While I was out, I just tried to stay locked in with everything that was going on with the team, staying in contact obviously and continue to just watch film, watch myself do good things and do bad things to learn from,” Carrington said. “But also a lot of watching myself do good things with this team just remind myself of what I’m capable of.”

LOT OF BOARDS

Baylor outrebounded Kansas 56-25, including 26 offensive rebounds, on the way to a 21-1 edge in second-chance points.

“They’re really crashing the offensive boards. It’s become where we’ve programmed them in the last week or two that guys, offensive rebounds, offensive rebounds, offensive rebounds,” Mulkey said. “So we’ve got, two games in a row, 23 and 26 offensive boards.”

BIG PICTURE

Kansas: The Jayhawks, who had three consecutive games postponed in the first half of January because of COVID-19 protocols, played the third of their four games in a nine-day span.

Baylor: The Lady Bears, who have won the last 10 Big 12 regular-season titles, reached the midpoint of their 18-game conference schedule atop the standings again. They dropped out of first place briefly following their loss to Iowa State on Jan. 16. They have since won their last five games, including a win at Iowa State last Sunday.

UP NEXT

Kansas plays TCU at home on Sunday.

Baylor plays at Kansas State on Sunday.