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AMES – West Virginia never flinched.
Not when it trailed 10-0 in the opening minutes, or down one with 25.2 seconds to play.
The Mountaineers answered every challenge on Sunday, scoring a rare win inside Hilton Coliseum, 68-66.
“They made more plays, they deserved to win the game,” Iowa State coach Bill Fennelly said.
It didn’t look that way in the opening minutes as the No. 24-ranked Cyclones raced to a 10-0 advantage. Then West Virginia turned up the heat.
Employing a full-court press, the Mountaineers (15-10, 7-7) harassing defense forced 21 turnovers and held Iowa State to 5-of-21 behind the arc.
“We had to make it ugly,” West Virginia coach Mike Carey said.
Carey used a bevy of players to keep the pressure on. Eight Mountaineers saw at least 18 minutes of action.
“That’s the way they play,” Fennelly said. “They just keep coming at you with waves of bodies."
The suffocating defense sapped the Cyclones’ (18-6, 9-5) energy and likely had a negative effect on their defense. After halftime, West Virginia scored 46 points and made 68 percent of its shots.
The Mountaineers took their first lead of the game when Bria Holmes swished a 3-pointer to make the score 35-34. Holmes drilled another trey minutes later to push the advantage to 51-47.
Iowa State countered with Nikki Moody and Hallie Christofferson. Moody hit three 3-pointers in the second half and finished with 14 points. All Christofferson did was tie a career-high with 27 points on Sunday and surpass 1,000 points for her career.
The first of Moody’s long balls gave the Cyclones the lead back at 52-51. When the sophomore’s last trey rattled home, Iowa State led 61-57 and looked like they would hold on for the win.
West Virginia fought back by going inside.
Ayana Dunning scored down low to cut the deficit to 66-64. After both teams traded turnovers the next two minutes, the Mountaineers had the ball and a chance to win, down 66-65 with 25.2 seconds to go.
Iowa State knew was what coming and still couldn’t stop it. West Virginia went after Fallon Ellis – who was playing for the fouled out Chelsea Poppens. Averee Fields’ scored the decisive basket with a spin move around Ellis.
“We knew it was going to go to one of the two post players, or dribble-penetration like most teams,” Fennelly said. “The kid made a good play.”
Fennelly elected not to call timeout. Instead, Nikki Moody was called for a charge when she tried to force the ball inside.
“I was just trying to attack,” Moody said.
Iowa State got another chance with 3.2 seconds left, but Christofferson couldn’t corral a long Kidd Blaskowsky pass, giving the Mountaineers the victory.
“We needed this win,” Carey said. “It’s a big win for us.”
West Virginia coach Mike Carey on Hilton Coliseum
“I want to say great crowd, great atmosphere. My god, they do it right here.”
Hallie Christofferson on surpassing 1,000 points in her career
“It’s a great milestone. My teammates are awesome for getting me the ball in there. I wish we could have won to make it better.”
Bill Fennelly on Christofferson’s accomplishment
“It’s a great thing for Hallie. She’s had a tremendous junior year, an all-conference kind of year.”
– Official attendance on Sunday was 11,951.
– Chelsea Poppens finished with 10 points and seven rebounds after battling foul trouble all day.
– Brynn Williamson made only 1-of-8 shots against West Virginia and missed all six of her 3-point attempts.
– Hallie Christofferson is the 25th Iowa State player to tally 1,000 points in her career. She scored more than 20 points for the third-straight game.
– Bria Holmes led the Mountaineers with 18 points. Ayana Dunning notched 13 points.
Winning on the road in the Big 12 is never easy, but Iowa State may be catching Kansas State (13-12, 4-9) at just the right time. The Wildcats are struggling to get production from their players not named Brittany Chambers.
The senior guard is one of the lone bright spots in a disappointing season. Chambers is averaging 19.2 points per game and 7.4 rebounds. Unfortunately for Kansas State, Chambers does the heavy lifting almost every night.
Earlier this season, the Cyclones blew out the Wildcats 87-71 despite 34 points from Chambers. Iowa State hopes for a similar result when it travels to Manhattan on Feb. 23. Tipoff is scheduled for 2 p.m. with the game being televised by FCS Central.