Lady Toppers hold off Louisiana Tech on Senior Day, finish regular season undefeated in Diddle Arena

WKU redshirt senior forward Dee Givens (4) puts up a shot as LA Tech freshman forward Anna Larr Roberson (44) attempts to block her during the WKU women’s basketball game against LA Tech on March 7, 2020, in Diddle Arena.

Drake Kizer

The WKU women’s basketball team (22-7, 14-4 C-USA) concluded the 2019-20 regular season against Louisiana Tech (14-15, 6-12 C-USA) on Saturday evening, and the Lady Toppers claimed a hard-fought 71-67 win over a worthy Conference USA opponent on Senior Day in Diddle Arena.

The Lady Toppers picked up an 84-75 win in Ruston, Louisiana, on Feb. 6, but the Lady Techsters, who entered Saturday as the No. 267 team in the latest RPI rankings, played well above their pay grade against WKU, which owned a No. 27 RPI ranking and a 7-5 record against teams in the top 100.

With the victory, WKU ended its 2019-20 campaign with 15 straight home wins dating back to a 67-56 win over Middle Tennessee State on March 7, 2019, which was the 2018-19 team’s Senior Night. The Lady Toppers haven’t lost in Diddle Arena since a 76-67 setback against North Texas on Feb. 9, 2019.

The Lady Toppers ended the regular season undefeated at home for just the fourth time in program history, a feat head coach Greg Collins said is “thrilling,” especially considering WKU opted out of an “easy schedule” in favor of playing a tough non-conference slate in Bowling Green this season.

“A lot of that credit goes first to the players, but also our fans,” Collins said. “Our fans make a difference. When we get to play at home, the fans get behind the kids and get on the referees — which they should get on ’em a little bit more sometimes — but that makes a huge difference playing at home.”

Redshirt senior guard Alexis Brewer, redshirt senior forward Dee Givens, senior point guard Whitney Creech and redshirt senior forward Sandra Skinner were individually honored for their contributions to the Lady Topper basketball program during a postgame Senior Day ceremony.

Three of WKU’s four seniors reached double-digit scoring outputs, as Givens, Creech and Brewer combined for 42 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists for the veteran-led Lady Toppers.

“Even though it was Senior Night, we still had an important task on hand, and that was just winning the game no matter how it came out,” Givens said. “It was a competitive game, and I think it was an interesting game. We went out with a bang in Diddle today.”

Junior forward Raneem Elgedawy tallied her 17th double-double of the season off the bench, collecting 13 points and 10 rebounds in 27 minutes played.

WKU shot 48% from the field, 28% from beyond the arc and 64% from the free-throw line, while LA Tech shot 49% from the field, 43% from the three-point line and 75% from the charity stripe.

WKU outrebounded the Lady Techsters 35-23 and outscored LA Tech 36-30 inside the painted area. The Lady Toppers also swiped nine steals, cashing in for 20 points off turnovers.

The Lady Techsters sank nine 3-pointers, as the LA Tech bench also more than doubled the scoring output produced by the Lady Toppers’ reserves, 41-19. LA Tech led for 22:15 in a contest that featured 11 lead changes, but it couldn’t hold on for the upset victory.

Junior guard Raizel Guinto paced the Lady Techsters, scoring 20 points in 31 minutes off the bench. Freshman forward Anna Lar Roberson finished with 11 points, while sophomore guard Amber Hawkison and junior guard Amber Dixon each tallied 10 points for LA Tech.

Elgedawy didn’t start for the Lady Toppers, and the Lady Techsters took advantage of WKU’s missing post presence. Her absence was evident on LA Tech’s opening possession, as Dixon grabbed her own miss and scored a second-chance layup at the 9:26 mark.

Dixon continued getting to the rim with ease for the Lady Techsters, granting her squad a 7-2 lead at the 7:58 mark. Collins was forced to ask for a timeout at the 7:31 mark after LA Tech established a 7-0 run in 1:09 of clock time and took a 9-2 lead over the Lady Toppers.

LA Tech kept pouring it on, mounting a combined 12-2 scoring run in 3:11 of clock time and claiming a 14-4 lead over the stumbling Lady Toppers at the 5:30 mark in the first.

Elgewdawy checked into the game for the first time with 5:09 left to play in the opening quarter, and the Lady Toppers responded by mounting a 4-0 run to trail 14-8 with 4:41 to go.

The Lady Techsters matched WKU with a quick 4-0 scoring run of their own, and the Lady Toppers soon trailed 21-9 after Guinto hit her second 3-pointer with 1:57 left in the first. 

Back-to-back layups from Givens capped a 5-0 scoring run late in the first frame, but Hawkison struck for a 3-pointer with 40 seconds left, giving LA Tech a 24-14 lead to end the first quarter.

Brewer opened the second quarter with a 3-pointer, pulling WKU closer at 24-17 with 9:33 left to play. LA Tech answered with a layup at the 9:01 mark, but both teams soon stopped scoring. 

After Elgedawy netted a free throw at the 8:38 mark in the second quarter, neither the Lady Toppers nor Lady Techsters scored until Givens hit a pair of free throws at the 6:05 mark.

Junior guard Sherry Porter hit a 3-pointer with five minutes left before halftime, and Skinner added a layup to give WKU an 8-0 scoring run and just a 26-25 deficit with 4:03 left in the second quarter.

Guinto broke a LA scoring drought that lasted over five minutes of clock time with a 3-pointer at the 3:45 mark, but Givens answered with a jumper and WKU trailed 29-27 at the 3:14 mark.

Junior forward Fatou Pouye knotted the game at 29-29 with an elbow jumper at the 2:14 mark, but Hawkison hit another triple to put LA Tech up 32-29 with 1:58 left before halftime.

After Creech’s made layup with under two minutes to play, Elgedawy sank a layup as the shot clock dwindled and gave WKU its first lead at 33-32 with 42 seconds to play before halftime.

Although the Lady Toppers drilled each of their last three field goal attempts, a jumper by Dixon with 23 seconds left in the second quarter put LA Tech ahead 34-33 at the break.

Brewer opened the second half with a 3-pointer, putting the Lady Toppers ahead 36-34 just 15 seconds after halftime. WKU kept applying pressure, mounting a 6-0 scoring run to take a 42-36 lead over the Lady Techsters with 8:39 left to play in the third quarter.

LA Tech soon cut its deficit to as low as one point, but the Lady Toppers maintained a 48-41 advantage over the Lady Techsters at the 5:49 mark in the third quarter.

Givens and Creech added onto their impressive WKU careers with back-to-back layups, putting WKU ahead 52-43 with 4:20 left to play in the third frame.

Elgedawy began to pick up steam late in the third quarter, matching LA Tech blow-for-blow on both ends of the floor. But the Lady Techsters refused to go away, chipping away at the WKU advantage until LA Tech trailed the Lady Toppers 58-55 at the end of the third quarter.

LA Tech freshman guard Lotte Sant tied the game at 58-58 to open the decisive period, draining a 3-pointer for the Lady Techsters. Later, Dixon put LA Tech ahead 60-58 at the foul line.

Brewer wouldn’t let her Senior Day be spoiled, draining a 3-pointer and a jumper on consecutive possessions to put WKU ahead 63-62 with 5:43 left to play before the final buzzer.

Guinto kept her hot-shooting performance from behind the three-point line going with 3:21 left to play, nailing a dagger in front of the LA Tech bench to put the Lady Techsters ahead 65-64.

Givens swatted a LA Tech shot with 1:55 left in the contest, but WKU came up short on the ensuing possession. Creech found Elgedawy with 53 seconds left, and the Alexandria, Egypt, native drilled the second-chance layup to put the Lady Toppers ahead 68-67.

Dixon missed a driving layup underneath the basket, and Creech corralled the rebound. She was fouled with 15 seconds to play, and she drilled both foul shots to put WKU up 70-67.

LA Tech inbounded the basketball with 15.8 seconds left in the contest, and Sant had a great look at the basket from behind the three-point line. Her shot was off the mark, and Pouye corralled the rebound for the Lady Toppers with eight seconds left in the game.

Givens, who now owns the record for games played in a WKU uniform, drained one last free throw with five seconds left in the contest, sealing a four-point triumph for the Lady Toppers on her Senior Day.

Following the win, the Lady Toppers will head west for the C-USA Tournament, which will take place from March 11-14 in the Ford Center at The Star in Frisco, Texas.

“We just have to bring energy and keep rebounding the basketball and playing defense and our offense will come,” Brewer said about what the Lady Toppers need to do to have success this postseason.

WKU, which has claimed two out of the last three C-USA Tournament crowns, will once again have a first-round bye in the postseason event. The third-seeded Lady Toppers will play their opening game in the quarterfinal round on Thursday, March 12.

Sports Editor Drake Kizer can be reached at [email protected] Follow Drake on Twitter at @drakekizer_.