Since a loss to the Oklahoma State Cowgirls on Dec. 18, the No. 21 West Virginia Mountaineers (13-2, 7-2 Big 12) have won eight games in a row.
The Mountaineers’ star player, redshirt senior Kysre Gondrezick, played in seven of those games and scored 20-plus points in six of them while notching 19 points in the other. She scored a career-high 30 points in the team’s most recent win on Saturday against the TCU Horned Frogs.
During this incredible stretch for the Mountaineers, Gondrezick also scored 24 points in a blowout win over the then-No. 17 Texas Longhorns on Jan. 9, two days after her father — former NBA player Grant Gondrezick — passed away.
West Virginia hasn’t made the NCAA Tournament since 2017 — when Gondrezick was a freshman at Michigan. But with the Mountaineers’ recent success, the team is in a position to accomplish something special this season.
Meanwhile, West Virginia’s opponent on Wednesday night at 7 p.m. ET (Big 12 Now on ESPN+), the Iowa State Cyclones, have lost two of their last three games. They lost to the inconsistent but talented Longhorns on Jan. 23, and to the class of the Big 12 in the No. 8 Baylor Lady Bears on Sunday, with a win over the Kansas State Wildcats in between.
The Cyclones entered the season ranked at No. 15. They quickly fell out of the rankings, but returned at No. 24 on Jan. 18 after defeating Baylor on Jan. 16. They have accounted for both of Baylor’s two losses in Big 12 play since March 6, 2017, with the other win coming in last year’s regular-season finale. However, Iowa State’s inconsistency has doomed them and they are out of the rankings once again (though still receiving votes).
Wednesday’s game is another opportunity for the Cyclones to reenter the rankings.
The Mountaineers, however, are hoping to avoid falling out.
Iowa State junior Ashley Joens is a big reason the Cyclones defeated Baylor twice over the past two seasons. She led her team in scoring in both games and is one of the best scorers in the nation in general. Right now, Joens is averaging 24.5 points per game, good for seventh in the country and third among Power 5 players.
Wednesday night could turn into a scoring duel between Joens and Gondrezick.
Sophomore forward Esmery Martinez, who averages 14.3 points and 12.2 rebounds per contest, is an apt co-star for West Virginia. Senior forward/center Kristin Scott plays a similar role as a co-star for Iowa State, though her numbers are much lower (10.5 and 5.7).
Iowa State Cyclones (11-6, 7-3 Big 12) vs. No. 21 West Virginia Mountaineers (13-2, 7-2 Big 12)
When: Wednesday, Feb. 3, at 7 p.m. ET
Where: WVU Coliseum in Morgantown, WV
Key to the matchup: Iowa State’s sharpshooters. These two teams are pretty even across the board, except for a few categories, including 3-point attempts. Iowa State averages 27.6 attempts from deep per game and West Virginia averages 15.6. If the Cyclones are going to risk taking that many threes, they need to make a good percentage of them to keep up with the Mountaineers in scoring. At the same time, Iowa State’s Lexi Donarski (42.3 percent from deep with 30 makes) and Kristin Scott (43.1 with 25) have a chance to give the Cyclones a huge advantage. The Mountaineers have a great 3-point defense, however — holding opponents to 28.4 percent. So, Joens needs to get easy buckets off drives for Iowa State in case the team goes cold from distance.
Reason to watch: West Virginia is a new team on the national radar, having entered the Top 25 for the first time this season on Jan. 25 before moving up to No. 21 on Monday. Iowa State, on the other hand, has been in and out of the rankings. But the Cyclones are talented enough to make this one close.