Raneem Elgedawy, Dee Givens fill stat sheet for Lady Toppers in 7th home win

Junior forward Raneem Elgedawy (15) battles with Belmont senior forward Maddie Wright (55) during the Lady Toppers’ game against Belmont in Diddle Arena on Wednesday, Nov. 13 in Bowling Green.

Jesse Spencer

The WKU women’s basketball team (13-6, 5-3 C-USA) continued their season-long tear at home on Thursday night, as the Lady Toppers trounced Florida Atlantic (9-11, 3-6 C-USA) in a 68-59 in Conference USA win in Diddle Arena.

With the win, WKU moved to 7-0 at home on the season and remained one of only 27 teams to have a perfect home record this season. The Lady Toppers also continued their dominance against the Owls, pushing WKU’s record against FAU to 10-0 in Diddle Arena and 19-2 overall. 

WKU shot 37% from the field, 14% from beyond the arc and 86% from the free-throw line. The Lady Toppers relied on a 43-27 rebounding advantage and a 34-16 advantage against the Owls in the painted area.

Head coach Greg Collins acknowledged the shooting woes of his team, but he said WKU must rely on hustle stats for sustained success down the stretch.

“[The team was] focused on defense and rebounding, but we sure weren’t focused on making layups,” Collins said. “As long as we keep doing the best job we can do guarding and the best job we can do rebounding, then we are going to win ball games even when we are not hitting shots.”

Junior forward Raneem Elgedawy controlled the entire game from inside the paint, scoring 28 points and securing 18 rebounds in 28 minutes of play. 

Redshirt senior forward Dee Givens shot her way to 25 points and grabbed six rebounds in her 36 minutes of action. 

Givens praised Collins’ gameplan and Elgedawy’s effectiveness for her personal success on the offensive end. 

“Coach preaches to us everyday that we are going to pound the ball inside,” Givens said. “Once Neem-O [Elgedawy] starts getting going, they are going to start packing it in, and then Neem-O can just kick it out … That’s what we did tonight.”

Senior point guard Whitney Creech filled up the stat sheet for WKU, as she scored nine points, dished out five assists and collected four rebounds.

FAU shot 40% from the field, 38% from deep and 61% from the charity stripe. The Owls scored more efficiently from the field than the Lady Toppers, but FAU allowed 23 offensive rebounds and collected only nine of its own.

Freshman guard Lotta Vehka-Aho carried the Owls offensively, dropping in a team-high 18 points in 31 minutes.

Sophomore wing Juliette Gauthier was the only other FAU player to score in double-figures, tallying with 11 points while playing all 40 minutes of the C-USA battle. 

Junior forward Astou Gaye and graduate guard Crystal Primm both scored eight points, respectively, before fouling out with reduced minutes and statistics overall.

Both teams came out of the gates struggling to score, as the Lady Toppers made only 1-of-7 attempts from the field by the 5:45 mark in the first, while the Owls converted only 1-of-5 shots during the same span.

While buckets were coming at a premium in the early going, the tallest ladies on the court found a way to control the scoring column. 

Elgedawy scored WKU’s first 13 points on 5-of-7 shooting from the field, while Gaye knocked down two 3-pointers for the Owls and brought the score to 11-6 at the 3:23 mark in the first quarter. 

During this initial push by the post players, Elgedawy led a 9-0 Lady Topper scoring run and dominated the boards with four rebounds. But the Owls responded quickly, reclaiming the lead within 60 seconds. 

Vehka-Aho drilled two straight 3-pointers for FAU, building a 6-0 scoring run by herself and giving the Owls a 12-11 lead with 2:35 left in the first period. 

A back-and-forth scoring battle ensued, as both teams seemed to make a push to grab the lead before the end of the frame. WKU outscored FAU 8-4 over the final 2:35, and the Lady Toppers carried a 19-16 lead into the second.

Elgedawy finished her stellar first 10 minutes of action with 15 points and four rebounds. 

The second quarter featured a defensive battle over the first 3:44 of clock time, as both teams scored four points each and did not allow any easy buckets on the other end.

By the media timeout at the 5:49 mark in the second, the Lady Toppers were shooting a lackluster 27% and the Owls were converting on 42% of their shots in the game. 

WKU then began to find its rhythm on the offensive end, as Givens netted the first 3-pointer of the game for the Lady Toppers at the 3:10 mark in the second quarter. 

Givens followed that huge shot with two free throws and a tough layup, bringing her scoring run to 7-1 and swelling the WKU lead to 33-26 going into the intermission. 

Elgedawy cooled off from the field in the second quarter, scoring only two points while adding six rebounds to her total. However, she finished the half with a double-double by tallying 17 points and 10 rebounds in 16 minutes. 

Givens and Elgedawy blew the game wide open in the third quarter, putting together an 11-2 scoring run and growing the Lady Topper lead to 44-28 with 6:12 remaining in the third. 

But FAU soon put a halt to the WKU scoring run, as freshman guard Alexa Zaph dropped in two deep 3-pointers in a row and cut the Lady Topper lead to nine at the 4:50 mark in the third.

After the initial push by Zaph, WKU responded by turning up the defensive pressure and going on a 13-2 scoring run. This answer to the Owl attack allowed WKU to bring its lead up to 20 going into the final frame. 

Creech spearheaded the huge Lady Topper run, scoring the final eight points for WKU and seemingly burying the Owls for good.

FAU showed its resolve early in the fourth, as the Owls continued to apply pressure defensively to the Lady Toppers and attacked the rim for easy scoring opportunities. 

This effort on both ends for FAU showed results and allowed the Owls to begin to claw their way back into the game. FAU put together an 11-0 run to begin the quarter and held WKU scoreless for the first of 6:53 of the fourth.

This scoring run shaved the Lady Topper lead to just nine with 4:34 remaining in the game. 

Elgedawy finally took the lid off the bucket for WKU, finishing a tough driving layup and a nice cut to the basket for a quick 4-0 run. The Lady Topper lead stood then at 63-50 with 2:31 left to play. 

The Owls chose to foul to give themselves the opportunity to come back, but a back-breaking 3-pointer by Givens with 17 seconds remaining in the fourth destroyed any chance for FAU to pull out the road victory. 

WKU closed out an impressive 68-59 home win and remained unbeaten at home in its last nine contests dating back to last season. 

Following the win, the Lady Toppers will remain in Diddle Arena for a meeting with Florida International (5-15, 2-7 C-USA) on Saturday.

Tipoff against the Panthers is set for 2 p.m. on Feb. 1.

The game will be available on C-USA TV.

Reporter Jesse Spencer can be reached at [email protected] Follow Jesse on Twitter at @jesse_spencer_5.