MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Fifth-year senior Danni Nichols is the leading scorer off the bench for head coach Dawn Plitzuweit’s team.
The veteran guard has come off the bench in all 11 games this season, and was averaging 6.6 points per game heading into the West Palm Beach Invitational.
Nichols was instrumental in both games in Florida.
She tallied 13 points, four rebounds, three assists, two blocks, and one steal in West Virginia’s win over Georgia. Her steal-and-score in the third quarter cut the Bulldogs’ once-15-point lead to just three. Her defensive rebound and outlet pass to Jayla Hemingway gave the Mountaineers a three-point lead with 6:14 to go in the fourth. West Virginia never trailed after that.
“[It’s] very easy for teams like that to give up in that spot, and we didn’t do that. We kept playing in the second half,” Nichols said.
Nichols followed that performance with a 17-point scoring outburst the next day against Miami (Ohio), bumping her scoring average to 8.1 points per game, good for fourth on the WVU roster. She made a team-high seven shots from the floor, and was a perfect 3-for-3 from the free-throw line.
Her 17 points Wednesday are the most she’s scored in a single game since her time at Western Illinois, where she was a 1,000-point scorer. On March 5, she tallied 17 points against Plitzuweit’s South Dakota squad.
Nichols spent five seasons at Western Illinois before transferring to West Virginia in the offseason. She has compared her first season in the University City to her freshman year with the Leathernecks.
“I feel like this year I was able to warm up a little quicker, and get used to my new teammates and new coaches,” she said.
Despite entering each game off the bench, the Columbia, Missouri native is shooting the highest percentage of her career. Her 60.7 success rate on shots from the floor is a big improvement from her final year with Western Illinois, when she shot a career-best 52.8 percent.
“Just getting into the gym and shooting and practicing, and taking those shots in practice, also,” Nichols said when asked what has contributed to her strong shooting performance thus far this year. “I think part of shooting a high percentage is also taking the right shots, too.”
Nichols has made at least one 3-pointer in eight of the Mountaineers’ 11 games this year. She has also made at least 50 percent of her shot attempts in six straight games dating back to Nov. 30, when she scored in double-figures for the first time as a Mountaineer.
The veteran guard, who started 97 straight games before transferring to WVU, has grown into her role, and become more comfortable with checking in and making an impact.
“It definitely isn’t something I was used to, but I’m a lot more comfortable than I thought I would be,” she said. “I think, originally, I’d be afraid that being cold coming off the bench. It’s hard, but I think I’ve found a way to come in and add to the game and produce coming off the bench. So, it’s something that I’ve learned to do.”
Nichols and West Virginia (9-2) begin Big 12 Conference play at home on Saturday against No. 20 Oklahoma (10-1).