The West Virginia University women’s basketball team fell to 16th place in South Florida (77-55) at Keizer University in West Palm Beach on Monday afternoon to open the 2021 West Palm Beach Invitational.
West Virginia (6-3, 0-0 Big 12) was led by Senior Guard Madisen Smith, who scored 15 points on the team. Smith was assisted in double digits by Junior Guard KK Deans who scored 13 points. Fifth-year forward Ari Gray strode towards WVU with five rebounds on the glass.
West Virginia fell behind early in the competition when South Florida converted a one-try in the first minute. A free throw from senior striker Kari Niblack brought WVU to the board a minute later, but consecutive results from USF forced the Mountaineers to take a 6:41 time-out before the end of the quarter.
The Mountaineers crossed four points after the break, including a 3-pointer from Smith, but the Bulls scored eight of their own, forcing the WVU to take another time out. After South Florida was 13 points behind with 4:00 in the quarter, Deans interrupted the scoring run with four of his own to make it a nine-point game. West Virginia kept their opponents goalless from the ground until 37 seconds remained in the quarter, and the Mountaineers added eight counts to bring the deficit to 22-17 at the end of the first.
WVU and USF exchanged their results at the beginning of the second quarter, but neither team was able to continue for the next two minutes. The Bulls converted a triple and a fast break within seven minutes when the Mountaineers were 29:19 6:13 behind in the half. A steal-and-score from freshman guard JJ Quinerly reduced the game to single digits, but South Florida got the score back immediately. West Virginia was 10 behind the media break in the second quarter.
The two teams each scored a 3-pointer from time-out, but those were the final field goals until there were 43 seconds left in the first half. USF scored a goal with a baseline jumper, but a trio of free throws from WVU helped reduce the deficit to 36-27 when it went into the halftime locker room.
Notably, Smith scored 10 points in the first two quarters and was the only player in the game to finish the first half in double digits.
Junior striker Esmery Martinez opened the second half with a record on the free throw line but South Florida countered with a 3-pointer at the other end. After Niblack scored on a baseline drive, USF rattled off a 6-0 run to widen the gap and force WVU to call another timeout.
Deans scored a goal after the break to get West Virginia back on the board, but another Bulls hit made it a 47-32 game in favor of USF in the third quarter.
With just over three minutes left in the quarter, Martinez converted an and-1 try just before Smith used a fast-break score to make it a 10-point game. However, South Florida kept firing from all cylinders, scoring 11 points to extend their lead to 21 points. Smith put in a 3-hand as time ran out as the Mountaineers fell behind 58-40 and went into the final 10 minutes of play.
The fourth quarter started with a score from WVU, but USF took eight more points to be 7:11 behind, 24 points behind. Three points from Niblack put the Bulls on hold for a while, but West Virginia was 72-45 behind on the last media timeout.
The Mountaineers scored 10 points in the last four minutes of the competition, but the damage was done. South Florida continued to produce offensively as WVU suffered their third loss of the season.
West Virginia will resume tournament play on Tuesday, December 21, when the Mountaineers face Michigan State at Keizer University in West Palm Beach. Tip-off against the Spartans is scheduled for 11 a.m. ET. Tuesday’s competition will be broadcast on FloHoops.