WKU falls to undefeated Rice, Elgedawy ties career-high 29 points

Western Kentucky University Lady Topper Fatou Pouye (12) communicates the game plan to Raneem Elgedawy (15).

Drew Toennies

The Lady Toppers (6-11), (5-6, C-USA) traveled to the Lonestar State to tip off the weekend series against Conference USA’s top women’s team the Rice Lady Owls (11-1), (7-0, C-USA).

WKU fell 64-54 to the undefeated Lady Owls to open the weekend series. 

“At the end of the day, they’re just a better shooting team than we are,” head coach Greg Collins said. “We got 70 field goal attempts and they had 49, so at the end of the day, we just aren’t shooting the ball well enough to score and enough to win.”

WKU senior Raneem Elgedawy tied her career-high of 29 points while grabbing 11 rebounds. Elgedawy picked up her 35th double-double of her career. WKU senior Fatou Pouye also performed well, as she scored 11 points and 14 rebounds. That was Pouye’s fourth double-double of the season.

“We just had to be more focused and I feel like the girls did that,” Pouye said. 

Rice was 47% from field goal range, whereas WKU was only 33% from the field. Rice had 20 turnovers and WKU had 15. WKU led Rice in rebounding 44-36.

“We needed to move the ball a little more like we did in the first half,” Collins said. “At the end of the day, we forced 20 turnovers, we had 15 turnovers, but we had 20, but we just missed a lot of free throws and a lot of shots.”

The opening tip landed in the hands of Rice junior Jasmine Smith and at 8:05, Rice sophomore Lauren Schwartz nailed a three pointer to give Rice the first lead. One minute later, Schwartz drilled her second triple of the game to extend the lead to six points.

Elgedawy made a jumper at 5:56 to put the first points on the board for WKU. By 4:45, WKU was 1-of-7 from the floor and Rice was 4-of-5 from the field. The Lady Toppers trailed 11-4. 

By 2:39, the Lady Toppers started to make a comeback and over the last 1:39 of the first frame, WKU would go on a 6-0 run and were 5-of-6 from the field. WKU trailed Rice 18-15 at the end of the first frame of play.

Elgedawy kicked off the second quarter draining a layup. She would score again off a Rice turnover to give WKU the 19-18 lead. The Lady Toppers were beating Rice when it came to turnovers as Rice had committed eight. 

However, by 7:02, Rice’s senior Nancy Mulkey would make a layup at 6:27 to reclaim the lead. 

The Lady Toppers kept fighting. At 5:27, Pouye would nail a three pointer to tie the game at 24. By 4:12, WKU was 3-of-3 from the field and was only trailing by two points. 

By 3:45, Elgedawy would drill a three pointer with 3:45 left in the half to knot it up again at 29. With 2 minutes left, WKU was 5-of-5 and was on its second 6-0 run of the game.

At the break, WKU led Rice 35-34. Elgedawy had 22 points and six rebounds. Rice’s Mulkey had 12 points and five rebounds.

The Lady Toppers were 42% from field goal range and the Owls were 55%. WKU outrebounded Rice in the first half 18-16. The Owls were struggling with rebounds as they turned the ball over nine times in the first two frames, whereas WKU had only six.

“We knew that they weren’t that strong with the ball,” Pouye said. “I feel like we need to keep doing it more and more. I feel like if we would have done that more it would have been a different story.” 

To begin the third quarter, Mulkey scored at 9:17 to give Rice the one point advantage. With 7:38 on the clock, Elgedawy drove to the lane and put two points on the board. WKU was keeping the game close as they trailed Rice 44-39 with 4:49 left.

However, by 3:09, WKU was 0-of-4 from the field goal range and trailed Rice by six points. And by 1:26, the Lady Toppers were down by eight points. With 18 seconds on the clock, WKU was on a scoring drought for the last 2:36 as they were 1-of-8 on their last several scoring attempts. 

Elgedawy went 0-4 from the free throw line and ended the quarter with 26 points as WKU trailed Rice 52-44.

In the final frame of play, a foul by WKU freshman Hope Sivori sent Rice sophomore Katelyn Crosthwait to the line where she would go 2-of-2. Rice would lead WKU 54-44. 

Mulkey would give Elgedawy a lot of trouble from the post as she blocked Elgedawy’s multiple scoring attempts. The 6-foot-9-inch Mulkey had bested her season high on blocks, as she had seven blocks. 

By 7:02, Rice had been on a scoring drought for the last 2:21. Then by 5:22, WKU was on a 6-0 run as Pouye and Elgedawy were on fire, making it a four-point game as Rice had five turnovers over the last 3:59 of the frame.

Pouye would go to the line at 4:36 as she drew her ninth foul off of an offensive rebound. However, she would go 0-of-2 from the line. 

With 2:59 left in the game, WKU was on another scoring drought as they were 0-of-4. By 1:13, Schwartz drilled a three pointer to give Rice their biggest lead of the game, leading 64-52. The Lady Toppers would refuse to foul Rice in the final minute of the game and fell to Rice 64-55.

“We needed to put more points on the board,” Pouye said. “That’s all we have to do tomorrow. Be aggressive on defense and rebound. We definitely have to out score them.” 

The Lady Toppers will continue their series against Rice on Saturday when they tip off the second game of the series at 4 p.m.

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