Lady Toppers stay undefeated in Diddle Arena, dispatch Marshall for 9th straight win

Marshall freshman guard Savannah Wheeler (left), WKU junior forward Raneem Elgedawy (top) and WKU redshirt senior forward Dee Givens (right) battle for possession during the women’s basketball game against Marshall on Thursday, Feb. 20. The Lady Toppers defeated the Thundering Herd 79-65.

Matt Gadd

The WKU women’s basketball team (19-6, 11-3 C-USA) claimed its ninth straight victory in Conference USA play on Thursday night, as the Lady Toppers led for 31:20 of clock time during a 79-65 home win against Marshall (11-14, 6-8 C-USA) in Diddle Arena.

Prior to Thursday’s game, WKU had won 12 straight home games, which tied as the 11th longest streak in the nation. The Lady Toppers were also one of 13 NCAA Division I teams that were perfect at home this season, and WKU kept its hot streak alive against Marshall.

The Lady Toppers are now 11-0 in games played on John Oldham Court this season, but head coach Greg Collins said he was more worried about the sluggish and lackluster defensive performance his team showed early on against the Thundering Herd.

“We weren’t intense enough,” Collins said. “We weren’t communicating and talking on the floor. We say talking equals intensity. If you are talking on the floor you are intense, if you’re not talking — it was so quiet, you could hear the popcorn popping at the concession stand. We needed to be much more active, so we changed our defense and picked it up a lot.”

WKU shot 50% from the field, 39% from beyond the arc and 60% from the free-throw line. The Lady Toppers dominated down low against Marshall, winning the rebounding battle 38-22 and claiming a 34-28 advantage on points in the paint.

The WKU bench also produced, outscoring Marshall’s reserves 14-7.

Senior point guard Whitney Creech paced the Lady Toppers, tallying 19 points, four assists, two rebounds and one steal in 35 minutes of action.

“I think we are playing really well right now, but I think we still have another level that we can get to,” Creech said. “I think we can continue to get better and better. But I’m really proud of how far this team has come and the progress we’ve made.”

Junior forward Raneem Elgedawy racked up another double-double, finishing the game with 17 points and 12 rebounds. Sophomore guard Meral Abdelgawad scored 11 points, while redshirt senior forward Dee Givens added 10 points to the stat line for the Lady Toppers.

The Thundering Herd had won two straight games and four of their last five outings, but Marshall couldn’t battle back from a 21-8 scoring differential in the second quarter.

Marshall shot 49% from the field, 44% from the three-point line and 69% from the charity stripe. The Thundering Herd committed 15 turnovers, but they scored 20 points from WKU miscues.

Junior forward Taylor Pearson finished with 24 points to lead all scorers, while freshman guard Savannah Wheeler added 19 points and four rebounds for the Thundering Herd.

Abdelgawad got the Lady Toppers on the board with a 3-pointer, tying the game 3-3 with 8:21 left to play in the first quarter. Following a 3-pointer and a three-point play by Marshall, the Lady Toppers found themselves in a 9-3 hole with 7:32 left to play in the first frame.

Back-to-back layups by Elgedawy kept WKU in the contest early on, but the Lady Toppers still trailed the hot-shooting Thundering Herd 14-11 with 4:30 left to play in the first quarter.

Despite consistent scoring on the offensive end of the floor, The Lady Toppers continued to trail Marshall because they were trading two-pointers for 3-pointers. 

Abdelgawad and Givens both capitalized on fast break opportunities, as Abdelgawad finished a layup and Givens drained a quick-trigger 3-pointer to cut the Thundering Herd lead to 18-17 with 1:56 left to play in the first quarter.

The Lady Toppers kept pushing offensively, ending the quarter on a combined 13-3 scoring run that saw WKU convert four out of its final five field goal attempts.

WKU carried a 24-20 advantage into the second frame, and Abdelgawad started the quarter similarly to the first, draining a 3-pointer to extend the WKU lead to 27-22 with 8:22 left to play in the second quarter.

Both teams struggled on offense, posting a combined 1-of-11 mark from the field during the second period. Despite scoring issues, the Lady Toppers continued to hold a 29-22 advantage at the 4:40 mark in the second quarter.

Redshirt senior guard Alexis Brewer ended the WKU scoring drought by draining a 3-pointer, pushing the WKU lead to double figures at 32-22 with 3:48 left before halftime.

After a layup and a successful foul shot from Wheeler, Givens drained another 3-pointer at the 2:51 mark to make the score 35-25.

Elgedawy continued the 3-point party by sinking another basket from behind the arc and extending the WKU advantage to 41-28 with 1:29 left to play in the first half.

Creech hit a layup with one second left in the second quarter, allowing the Lady Toppers to end the opening period on a combined 13-3 run over the last 2:51 of clock time.

WKU outscored Marshall 21-8 in the second period, a scoring differential that resulted in a 45-28 Lady Topper lead at the halftime break. Marshall struggled mightily late in the first half, committing three turnovers during a scoring drought that spanned the last 2:27 of clock time.

Creech opened the third quarter with another layup at the 9:01 mark, but the Lady Toppers quickly yielded a 4-0 scoring run to the Thundering Herd offensive attack.

Elgedawy grabbed an offensive rebound after her own missed free throw, and she converted the second-chance attempt to put WKU up 49-32 with 7:24 left to play in the third quarter.

Givens nailed another 3-pointer from behind the men’s three-point line, extending the Lady Topper lead to 53-37 with 5:16 left to play in the third frame.

Elgedawy converted a pair of shots from the charity stripe to put WKU up 55-41 at the 3:40 mark in the third quarter.

Both teams traded baskets late in the frame, resulting in a 59-48 lead for WKU after the third period. Despite its advantage, WKU was actually outscored 20-14 in the third quarter.

Creech opened the fourth quarter with a 3-pointer for the Lady Toppers, pushing the WKU lead to 62-48 on the first possession of the final quarter.

Redshirt senior forward Sandra Skinner converted a layup in the post to push the Lady Topper lead to 69-52 with 6:03 to go in the decisive frame, and she converted a hook shot in the painted area just a couple minutes later.

Abdelgawad converted on a driving layup, making the WKU lead 71-53 with 5:24 left to play in the fourth period.

Freshman guard De’Myla Brown hit a jumper with the shot clock winding down at the 3:58 mark, extending the WKU lead to 75-56 with 3:58 left to play in the game.

Collins continued to empty his bench, which allowed Marshall to mount a 9-0 scoring run. Junior forward Fatou Pouye scored with 1:21 to play, making the score 77-65 in favor of WKU.

WKU ended the game on a 4-0 scoring run by making five of its last six shots from the floor, and the Lady Toppers eventually coasted to a 14-point home win over their rivals.

Following the win, the Lady Toppers will travel to Boca Raton, Florida, before continuing C-USA play against Florida Atlantic (12-13, 6-8 C-USA) on Saturday.

Tipoff in RoofClaim.com Arena is set for 1 p.m. on Feb. 22.

The game will be available on C-USA TV.

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