Lady Toppers shakedown Techsters in C-USA opener

Freshman Hope Sivori dribbling against the LA Tech Lady Techsters on Jan. 8, 2021. The Lady Toppers took down LA Tech 61-55 for their first conference win of the season. 

Drew Toennies

WKU (2-5), (1-0, C-USA) opened up Conference USA play with a 61-55 win over LA Tech (6-3), (1-2, C-USA) on the front end of a back-to-back series. It had been 19 days since the Lady Toppers last played at Tennessee Tech and lost 73-59. 

The deciding factor of the game was most definitely turnovers and rebounds. 

WKU outrebounded Louisiana Tech 49-38. WKU additionally outrebounded the Lady Techsters on the offensive end as they had 21 offensive rebounds, whereas the Lady Techsters had only 10 offensive rebounds.

However, the Lady Toppers were 33% from field goal range by the end of regulation, which was actually 2% lower than the Lady Techsters field goal percentage. The Lady Techsters were 35% from field goal range.

Both WKU and Louisiana Tech had turnover problems as well as shooting issues in their first meeting. The first two quarters consisted of a back-and-forth battle between both teams. The turnovers would be a consistent theme throughout the game. 

Despite these issues, it was actually the Lady Techsters who struggled more with turnovers by the end of regulation. WKU had 14 turnovers, which was only one down from the Lady Techsters turnovers, which sat at 15.

Although only committing one more turnover than the Lady Toppers, the Lady Techsters turned the ball over three times in a row near the end of the game which helped WKU take control in the final minutes.

Senior Fatou Pouye was the most important offensive contributor to the Lady Toppers as she led WKU in scoring with 21 points as well as 13 rebounds. 

Junior Meral Abdelgawad was the second best scorer on the night as she scored 12 points and had 11 rebounds. Freshman Ally Collett also had a good performance as she scored 11 points and had four rebounds.

“We needed this win today so that we can be more confident for tomorrow,” Pouye said in her postgame interview. ”We just need to execute and do what coach says.”

Pouye said that scoring 21 points in tonight’s game was due to the fact that she knew somebody had to step up and lead the team to victory.

Shortly after the final buzzer, WKU head coach Greg Collins appeared on 102.7 ESPN to speak about his team’s performance.

“It’s nice to get a win,” Collins said. “I was really proud of the girls, how they really showed a lot of composure and toughness against a very good defensive team at home.”

Collins talked about how he was pleased with how his team managed to decrease their turnover rate as the game progressed.

Collins also briefly talked about how he planned to approach their second matchup against the Lady Techsters tomorrow afternoon.

“We’ll take the same approach defensively,” Collins said about their second game against LA Tech tomorrow afternoon. “We’re trying to make sure we keep them out of the paint.”

The Lady Techsters won the opening tipoff but quickly turned the ball over to the Lady Toppers.

Abdelgawad started off WKU’s offense by scoring 5 points in the first few minutes of the first quarter.

However, both WKU and LA Tech had issues with turnovers in the first quarter. WKU turned over the ball six times, whereas the Lady Techsters turned over the ball four times.

By the end of the first quarter, Pouye tied Abdelgawad in scoring as both players had five points by the end of the opening frame.

Despite committing six turnovers, WKU managed to end the first quarter in the lead 15-12.

Going into the second quarter, the Lady Toppers started off the quarter by continuing to turn the ball over. With not even a minute remaining, the Lady Techsters regained the lead.

However, WKU’s turnovers wouldn’t be enough for the Lady Techsters to go on any runs. The lead changed constantly as WKU’s turnovers were not enough for the Lady Techsters to pull ahead.

With 4:22 remaining in the quarter, the Lady Toppers led the Lady Techsters by two points. With under two minutes remaining, the Lady Techsters managed to regain the lead by sinking a three-pointer.

Both teams were struggling with retaining possession as WKU had nine turnovers and Louisiana Tech had seven turnovers by halftime.

Both teams struggled with shooting the ball in the first half of play as WKU ended the second quarter with an accuracy of 29% from field goal range. Louisiana Tech was 30% from field goal range.

Both Abdelgawad and Pouye ended the first half of play with five points each.

The quarter ended with a last-minute hustle from the Lady Techsters to get a one point lead over the Lady Toppers.

WKU’s offense showed up early in the third quarter as the Lady Toppers went on a 6-0 run.

The Lady Techsters kept the game close, but they had issues with finding the basket.

WKU’s offense was showing up in the third quarter as by 1:14 in the quarter, WKU had made four out of their last five from field goal range. WKU was 37% in the third quarter.

Collett was explosive in the third quarter as she furthered her scoring to 11 points. Abdelgawad shared the spotlight with Collett as she also had 11 points.

By the end of the third quarter of play, WKU had a two point lead over LA Tech.

The fourth quarter started off with the Lady Techsters taking the lead as WKU would not score in the first three minutes of the final quarter.

Abdelgawad was given many opportunities but was unable to convert in the first minutes. Abdelgawad eventually drew the foul and went to the line. Abdelgawad had 12 points by the 5:31 mark of the fourth quarter.

However, WKU was starting to get inaccurate from field goal range as they trailed the Lady Techsters by 8% in field goal accuracy.

By the four minute mark, WKU managed to get their heads back in the game and started to capitalize on two back-to-back turnovers by the Lady Techsters. WKU had a one point lead and an opportunity at the free-throw line.

With 1:41 left on the clock, WKU dropped another basket to give the Lady Toppers a two point advantage over their opponent.

Abdelgawad dropped two points at the 1:23 mark to give WKU a four point lead.

However, WKU would foul the Lady Techsters and they would make two points on the free throw line to cut the Lady Toppers lead to only two points with 36 seconds left on the clock.

With 10.6 seconds on the clock, WKU had extended their lead to six points and finished off the game with a 61-55 victory over the Lady Techsters.

The Lady Toppers will be returning to Thomas Assembly Center tomorrow afternoon to finish their C-USA opener against the Lady Techsters. Tipoff is scheduled for 4 p.m.

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