‘We had every opportunity to win this game’: Lady Toppers unable to takedown undefeated Rice

Lady Topper Myriah Haywood (00) wipes sweat from her head as she prepares for the next play.

Drew Toennies

The Lady Toppers (6-12), (5-7, C-USA) returned to Tudor Fieldhouse Saturday to take on the Rice Lady Owls (12-1), (8-0, C-USA) in game two of the series after suffering a 64-55 loss the night prior in game one of the series.

Rice won game two of the series 77-74 sweeping the Lady Toppers Saturday evening. 

Despite losing to Rice, the Lady Toppers scored over 71 points, which no team has done in a game against Rice since March 20, 2018.

“I told the girls, they deserve to win this game,” head coach Greg Collins said. “We had every opportunity to win this game. We can’t blame anybody else but ourselves.”

Senior Raneem Elgedawy led WKU with 23 points while freshman Hope Sivori nearly tied her career high in points with 22. Junior Meral Abdelgawad picked up her fifth double-double against Rice scoring 11 points while grabbing 10 boards.

“She calmed down, she settled down and let the game come to her,” Collins said about Sivori’s performance. “She made some big shots and shots we needed.”

Rice shot 49% from field goal range while WKU was 43% from the field. The Lady Toppers were outrebounded 40-35. Rice had 19 turnovers which was more than WKU who had 16 turnovers.

“I told the girls in the locker room, we’re close but we’re not there,” Collins said. “I think they continue to grow, you can see the maturity, decision making is improving, but there are still times where we make some defensive errors.” 

The opening tip landed in the hands of junior Jasmin Smith and Rice would drop the first bucket of the game as senior Nancy Mulkey laid in a layup. Thereafter, Elgedawy went to the free throw line and made both shots to give WKU their first points of the game. 

WKU redshirt sophomore Myriah Haywood would give the Lady Toppers a 6-4 lead driving to the basket. Haywood would then go to the line at 5:13 and make both of her free throws to give WKU an early 12-8 advantage.

With 2:55 left in the opening frame, Abdelgawad sank a three pointer to give WKU a 15-10 lead over Rice. At the end of the first quarter the Lady Toppers led 18-15.

Elgedawy started off the second quarter by driving to the lane and making the layup at 9:12 to start off the second quarter. At 7:38, Rice sophomore India Bellamy scored off a WKU turnover to give Rice the 21-20 advantage. 

WKU opened the second quarter still trading blows. However, Sivori would score six unanswered points giving WKU a 26-21 advantage. By 4:03 WKU would be on a scoring drought as they were 0-of-4 from the field. 

Sophomore Lauren Schwartz would answer for Rice who still trailed WKU 26-25 by hitting a jumper at 3:19. Rice would soon take the lead with 37 seconds left on the clock, as senior Sydne Wiggins would nail a three pointer to give Rice the one point advantage. With one second remaining, Bellamy would score off another WKU turnover to give Rice a 36-32 lead at halftime.

Elgedawy had 10 points and two rebounds by halftime, despite being benched. However, Sivori stepped up to lead WKU in the first two frames as she scored eight points and had three rebounds.

WKU was 38% from the field whereas Rice was shooting 50%. Also, WKU had seven turnovers whereas Rice had nine. The Lady Toppers were being outrebounded 20-19 in the first two frames.

Sivori started off the third frame by drilling a deep three. However, Schwartz would return fire for Rice by nailing a three pointer at 9:30 to keep Rice up 39-65. Elgedawy would hit her first jumper of the last two frames at 8:03 after being absent in most of the first two frames. 

Elgedawy would score again to make it a one possession game as WKU trailed Rice 45-44.

With 3:17 left in the third frame, freshman Ally Collett drilled a three pointer to decrease the point deficit to 50-49. Following Collett’s shot, coach Collins called a timeout to make the proper adjustments.

However, Wiggins would return with a three pointer at 2:13 to put Rice back up 53-49. Rice sophomore Destiny Jackson drilled another three pointer at 1:09 and then again with 33 seconds left. At the end of the third frame, WKU trailed Rice 59-56.

With 8:56 left in the final frame Collins pulled Elgedawy out of the game as she was seen to be upset at the officials’ calls in the past two frames. On the sidelines, Elgedawy had a heated exchange with Collins over the officiating crews decisions.

“It was just tough guarding a six-nine in there,” Collins said about Elgedawy’s performance. “It’s not as much a physical battle as a position battle.”

Moments later Sivori drilled another three pointer to tie the game at 59. She continued to keep WKU in the game scoring eight points which led to a tie at 61 with roughly seven remaining in regulation. 

Sivori continued to pour on the points scoring another three pointer at 6:51 to give WKU the 64-61 lead. Rice called a timeout shortly after Sivori’s shot.

Elgedawy came back into the game and made a layup to give WKU a six point lead. WKU had taken control of the game and led 71-65. With 1:02 left, Abdelgawad hit the shot and drew a foul. She shot 1-of-2 from the line. However, sophomore Katelyn Crosthwait would hit a three pointer with 20 seconds left to give Rice the lead.

With 15 seconds remaining, Collins called a timeout as Rice led 77-74. WKU would be unable to score and would fall to Rice 77-74 in game two of the series.

The Lady Toppers will host the North Texas Mean Green (11-4), (8-2, C-USA) at home next weekend. Friday’s game is scheduled to tip off at 6 p.m. Then next Saturday’s game is set for 4 p.m.

North Texas just swept its series this weekend at home against Southern Miss. 

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