Lady Toppers split series at FIU, Abdelgawad scores career-high 29 points

WKU guard Meral Abdelgawad (40) fights to hold onto the ball against FAU guard Iggy Allen (2) at the game at Diddle Arena on Feb. 5, 2021. WKU won 71-64.

Drew Toennies

The Lady Toppers (7-13), (6-8, C-USA) returned to FIU (11-11), (8-8, C-USA) Arena for game two in the series against the Panthers. Freshman Ally Collett missed both free throw attempts in the final moments to fall short 82-79 at FIU. 

Collett’s initial free throw attempt with one second left in regulation was called back due to a line violation on WKU. 

Head coach Greg Collins said it was one of the worst calls he’s seen. Even if it was close to a lane violation that doesn’t get called.

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“If you’re a quality referee and apparently we don’t have quality referees at our games, you don’t make that call,” Collins said. “I think she had an agenda in her mind, and she already decided she’s going to do something.”

However, junior Meral Abdelgawad led WKU’s offense as she broke her career-high 26 points with a 29-point performance where she also managed to pick up five rebounds, seven assists and six steals.

“She just has that energy that never dies,” Collins said about Abdelgawad’s performance. “She always plays with that passion and competitiveness, and she wants to win.”

WKU won the opening tip off, but FIU sophomore Fujika Nimmo would sink a three pointer to put the first points on the board. Abdelgawad made a layup to put the first points on the board for WKU.

The Lady Toppers went on a 12-4 run for 3:16 heading into the first media timeout of the half, leading the Panthers 16-12.

Although the first quarter was much closer than yesterday, FIU still had issues with turnovers. The Panthers turned the ball over seven times, which WKU used to put eight points on the board. The Lady Toppers led the Panthers 20-18 at the end of the first frame.

WKU started off hot in the second quarter, going on a 6-0 run over the first two minutes. FIU returned fire and shot 3-of-3 from the field to cut the deficit down to three points.

The Panthers clawed back after being down early as FIU senior Diane Diene made a three pointer to give FIU a 32-31 lead. WKU bounced back and made 5-of-7 from field goal range to tie the game at 35-35 before the second media break.

After the break, FIU came back and shot 4-of-5 from the field to take a four-point lead over WKU. The Panthers led WKU 46-42 by halftime.

Abdelgawad led the way in scoring with 16 points and grabbed three rebounds for WKU. Senior Raneem Elgedawy posted 11 points and six rebounds in the opening half.

WKU shot 47% from the field, where the Panthers were 46%. The Lady Toppers had committed eight turnovers over the first two frames, while FIU had turned the ball over nine times. Both teams had taken advantage of turnovers to put 12 points on the board each. The Panthers were out rebounding WKU 22-17.

Nimmo would start off the third frame by knocking down a three pointer to give FIU a five point advantage. The Lady Toppers would come back and make 4-of-5 to make it a close game, trailing 55-53 with almost five minutes left to play.

The Lady Toppers would take the lead 61-60 when Elgedawy made a layup. Both Abdelgawad and Elgedawy reached 20 points each with roughly two minutes to go in the third frame.

At the end of the third quarter, Abdelgawad had 24 points and was three points away from a new career high going into the final quarter. WKU held a 68-67 lead going into the fourth quarter with two players in double digits.

WKU outscored FIU 6-3 in the last 3:10 of the quarter by the first media break of the final frame. The Lady Toppers led 74-72 and Abdelgawad was still two points away from tying her career high in points scored.

However, WKU would turn the ball over five times in the final 3:53 of regulation to allow FIU to take a two-point lead.

Sivori made a free throw at the one minute mark to make it a two-point game at 1:02. 

In the final moments of the game, Egedawy picked up a steal with eight seconds on the clock. WKU was down 80-79, and Collins called a timeout to draw up a plan.

WKU would fall short 82-79 after Collett was fouled and missed both free throws with one second remaining. Collett’s first shot went in but a lane violation was called on WKU and her attempt didn’t count. 

The Lady Toppers will tip off their final conference series against Old Dominion in Norfolk, Virginia, next weekend. Both games are scheduled to tip off at 5:30 p.m.

“We got to get smarter about not complaining to the referees and making sure that we’re playing the game and not playing the referees too,” Collins said. “Everything that you do wrong is not a foul so we’ve got to eliminate that from being a part of our game.”

Women’s basketball beat reporter Drew Toennies can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @drew_toennies.