Lady Toppers strike gold early against Miners, hold on to defeat UTEP for 7th consecutive win

Miner guard Avery Crouse (15) gets her shot attempt blocked by a Lady Topper defender during the women’s basketball game against UTEP on Thursday, Feb. 13.

Matt Gadd

The WKU women’s basketball team (17-6, 9-3 C-USA) held a 27-point lead late in the first half against Texas-El Paso (13-10, 6-6 C-USA) on Thursday night, but the Lady Toppers had to scratch and claw to overcome a late rally during a 78-65 Conference USA win in Diddle Arena.

Prior to Thursday, WKU had won six straight games and had posted a perfect 8-0 record at home this season. The Lady Toppers are still spotless at home this year, but WKU wasn’t able to coast en route to reaching an 11-game winning streak in Bowling Green that dates back to March 2019.

“We came out focused and ready to play hard,” head coach Greg Collins said postgame. “When we stopped playing hard, that’s when things changed. Because with teams like UTEP, they come to play and they don’t stop.”

WKU shot 43% from the field, 32% from beyond the arc and 63% from the free-throw line. The Lady Toppers dominated points off turnovers, leading UTEP 23-6 in the category. WKU also outrebounded the Miners by a small margin, 38-36.

Junior guard Sherry Porter was dressed in street clothes against the Miners, as she was forced to sit out with an MCL injury for the third consecutive game. Redshirt senior guard Alexis Brewer started in her place, finishing with 17 points, two rebounds and four assists.

“With Sherry being out, someone had to step into that role and take what she has been doing for the team,” Brewer said postgame.

Redshirt senior forward Dee Givens ended the game with 16 points, five rebounds, six assists and six steals. Junior forward Raneem Elgedawy accumulated a double-double with 16 points and 14 rebounds, while sophomore guard Meral Abdelgawad finished with 17 points.

UTEP shot 50% from the field, 22% from the three-point line and 50% from the charity stripe.

The Miners controlled points in the paint, leading WKU 52-36 in the painted area. The UTEP bench also outperformed the Lady Toppers, winning the bench battle 17-6.

Senior wing Ariona Gill led the way in the scoring column for the Miners with 19 points and seven rebounds. Junior forward Michelle Pruitt finished with 17 points off the bench.

Givens started the game with a made 3-pointer at the 9:29 mark in the first quarter. Elgedawy converted a layup after a steal by Abdelgawad, putting the Lady Toppers up 7-5 with 7:23 left in the opening frame.

Givens drained a contested fadeaway jumper with 5:52 left in the first quarter, while Elgedawy continued to make her presence in the post felt. She sank a layup off an assist by senior point guard Whitney Creech to give WKU a 17-7 advantage with 4:30 left to play in the first quarter.

The Lady Toppers were on fire from the field early on, shooting an impressive 70% at the 4:30 mark. The Miners went ice cold during that same stretch, allowing WKU to post a combined 14-2 scoring run over 5:03 of clock time at the 1:39 mark in the opening frame.

Creech dished out an assist to Givens on an inbound play with 2:32 left to play, allowing Givens to convert a layup that extended the WKU lead to 14. Abdelgawad converted a three-point play in transition to put WKU ahead 24-9 with 1:39 left to play in the first quarter.

Elgedawy drained a pair of shots from the charity stripe to put WKU up 26-9 with 33 seconds left in the first quarter. The Lady Toppers were hot from the field in the first quarter, shooting an eye-popping 58% en route to a 26-11 advantage after one period.

Brewer added her name to the scoring column for the Lady Toppers, draining back-to-back attempts from behind the three-point line in the opening minutes of the second quarter.

Abdelgawad grabbed an offensive board and put it back up, earning herself a second-chance bucket with 6:28 left to play before halftime. Elgedawy had already notched a double-double with 5:25 left to play in the first half, picking up 12 points and 10 rebounds by that point.

The Lady Toppers hit back to back 3-pointers late in the frame, with Brewer striking first at the 4:01 mark. Freshman guard De’Myla Brown followed her at the 3:29 mark, putting WKU in front of the Miners 44-17 with under four minutes before halftime.

UTEP answered its seemingly insurmountable deficit by building a 13-3 scoring run over the last 3:50 of clock time in the first half. WKU went cold, going without a basket for the last 3:29 in the second quarter.

The Lady Toppers were 0 for 6 on their last six field goals and allowed the Miners to close out the first half on an unanswered 11-0 run, but WKU maintained a 44-28 halftime lead.

Brewer started the quarter out with a wide up layup at the 9:41 mark, and she followed it up with a jumper to put the Lady Toppers up 48-35 with 8:10 left to play in the third quarter.

Elgedawy converted in the paint off a feed from Brewer at the 6:39 mark in the third quarter, and she added another basket in transition with 5:33 left to play in the frame to put WKU up 52-37.

WKU then went on a scoring drought, going 3:58 without a basket. The Miners took advantage, cutting their deficit to single digits at 54-45 with 2:04 left to play in the third quarter. 

The Lady Topper scoring drought was ended after a made layup by Creech with 45 seconds remaining in the third quarter.

Despite their poor shooting in the quarter, The Lady Toppers maintained a 58-47 lead going into the fourth quarter. Abdelgawad started the fourth quarter out with a 3-pointer at the 9:03 mark, extending the WKU lead to 61-47 in the early going.

The Lady Toppers couldn’t get a basket for a while, as WKU went on a scoring drought that lasted 3:06 of clock time. Givens ended the drought with a 3-pointer and made the score 64-54 in favor of the Lady Toppers with 5:57 left to play in the final quarter.

The Miners kept pushing, eventually trimming their deficit to just 64-59 with 3:35 remaining in the decisive frame. Brewer traded makes with UTEP from there, and the redshirt senior helped WKU hold onto a nine-point lead with a little over two minutes left in the game.

Skinner hit a fast break layup off a dish by Givens, putting the Lady Toppers up 70-61 with 2:06 left. The Miners resorted to intentional fouling, but a few clutch free throws from the Lady Toppers helped WKU close out the game with a 13-point home victory.

Following the win, the Lady Toppers will remain in Diddle Arena for a meeting with a struggling Texas-San Antonio (6-17, 2-10 C-USA) program on Saturday afternoon.

Tipoff in Diddle Arena is set for 2 p.m. on Feb. 15.

The game will be available on C-USA TV.

Reporter Matt Gadd can be reached at [email protected] Follow Matt on Twitter at @themattgadd.