Lady Toppers fall to Gaels in overtime, conclude play in Saint Mary’s Thanksgiving Classic

Junior forward Raneem Elgedawy (15) battles with Belmont senior forward Ellie Harmeyer (30) 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 (5-2) stumbled against Saint Mary’s (3-4) in an 80-73 overtime loss on Saturday, as the Gaels snapped the Lady Toppers’ five-game winning streak in their second game in as many days in the Saint Mary’s Thanksgiving Classic.

WKU took on the Gaels for the first time in program history in the McKeon Pavilion in Moraga, California, playing the second of back-to-back games and also the second of back-to-back games against first-time opponents on the west coast.

The Lady Toppers were able to turn the Gaels over 20 times and turned those opportunities into 21 points on the other end.

WKU outscored St. Mary’s in the paint 46-26 and outscored the Gaels in fast break points 17-1, but the Lady Toppers were outrebounded 41-35 throughout the contest.

WKU struggled mightily scoring the ball, shooting 36% from the field, 21% from behind the arc and 78% from the charity stripe. The Lady Topper bench contributed zero points over the 45 minutes of play, and the WKU defense allowed 16 successful 3-point shots.

Junior forward Raneem Elgedawy absolutely dominated the paint, scoring 27 points and grabbing 13 rebounds for her second straight double-double.

Senior point guard Whitney Creech started slowly, but she finished the game with 20 points of her own and seven rebounds. 

Redshirt senior guard Dee Givens scored 14 points on an abysmal 4-of-19 shooting. Junior guard Sherry Porter struggled as well, scoring only two points in 28 minutes of action. 

St. Mary’s shot 42% from the field, 36% from 3-point range and 67% from the free throw line. 

The Gael bench offered massive contributions throughout the game, scoring 28 points compared to zero from the Lady Topper bench. 

Sophomore guard Sam Simons lit it up from behind the arc all game long, scoring 24 of her team-high 25 points on 3-pointers in 41 minutes of action. Fellow sophomore guard Taycee Wedin also stood out, scoring 15 points and snatching 5 rebounds.

Elgedawy started the contest against Tulsa with three turnovers and was benched four minutes into the game, but she came out with a different energy against St. Mary’s. She scored the first seven points for the Lady Toppers, including a tough and-one that she converted.

Givens was able to make the start for WKU after landing awkwardly on her left ankle attempting to secure a rebound on Friday, but Creech, Givens and Porter combined for only three points in the first quarter.

Elgedawy knocked down a 3-pointer with 23 seconds left in the frame to push her point total to 10 in the quarter. The other six Lady Toppers to play in the first were held to only four points. 

Both teams struggled to score early in the first as the Lady Topper shot 29% from the field and the Gaels shot 33% from the field. St. Mary’s managed to secure a one-point lead going into the second period thanks to a 13-7 rebounding advantage. 

The Gaels came out stroking it from deep in the second quarter scoring 12 straight points on 3-pointers. Following another layup by Elgedawy with 8:02 left in the second quarter, St. Mary’s ripped off an 11-0 run and pushed its lead to 13 with 5:44 left. 

Creech snapped the run by breaking into the scoring column at the 5:24 mark in the second with a long 3-pointer. Porter followed Creech’s bucket with one of her own, hitting a floater in the lane for her first two points of the game cutting the Gaels’ lead to 8. 

St. Mary’s recovered from the 5-0 mini-run put up by Creech and Porter with a 5-0 run of its own to push their lead back to 13 with 2:24 left in the half. Both teams finished the quarter matching each other bucket-for-bucket until the halftime horn blew.

The Gaels took a 39-27 lead into the break thanks to six 3-pointers and 24 total points in the second quarter alone. Saint Mary’s also played stellar defense in the frame, allowing the Lady Toppers to convert on a mere 31% of their shots and only one 3-pointer. 

The third quarter was characterized by a back-and-forth battle where neither team gained ground. Both teams scored 18 points and neither side could grab control of the game. 

The Lady Toppers aggressively attacked the lane and used these opportunities to draw fouls and convert at the free throw line. WKU knocked down 9-of-10 free throws to account for half of their points in the quarter. 

Creech set the tone for WKU by going to the paint early and often scoring seven points in the quarter on five free throws and a layup. 

Sophomore guard Meral Abdelgawad added four free throws of her own, and Elgedawy scored another two tough buckets in the lane to attempt to cut into the St. Mary’s lead.

The quarter ended with junior guard Madeline Holland scoring four points on layups for the Gaels and pushing the lead back up to 12 going to the fourth. 

The Lady Toppers came out with a heightened sense of urgency to start the final 10 minutes of action and ripped off a 9-2 run in the first three minutes of the frame.

Elgedawy continued carrying WKU on the offensive end and scored the first six points of the quarter on her own. Givens then added two huge and-ones to cut the St. Mary lead to four.

Elgedawy continued her hot shooting in the quarter hitting yet another layup and making it a two-point game with 5:25 left. 

The Gaels answered in a big way, as Simons went on a 6-0 run of her own draining two 3-pointers on consecutive possessions. The two 3-pointers pushed her game total to seven and her point total to 21 to lead the way for St. Mary’s.

The Lady Toppers recovered after the body blows handed out by the Gaels to go on an 8-0 run of their own and tied the game with 1:41 left in the final period. Creech continued her big half attacking the basket by scoring four of the eight points on this run in the painted area. 

The game stayed tied as both teams frantically put up potential game-winning shots to try and steal a win in the final day of the in-season event. Both teams had two opportunities each to score in the final minute, but both teams missed two shots each. 

Regulation ended with WKU holding an 8-0 run and the score tied at 67-67.

St. Mary’s started the overtime period scorching hot from behind the arc, hitting two consecutive 3-pointers and going on a 6-0 run. Simons hit another shot from behind the arc in this stretch to bring her 3-point total to eight on the game. 

Elgedawy did what she did all game by getting into the paint and drawing a foul from the Gaels defense. She broke the lid off the bucket for WKU and knocked down 1-of-2 from the charity stripe to push her point total to 27 for the game. 

Givens attacked the rim and drew another foul on St. Mary’s to get another opportunity for two at the line. She knocked down both, but Wedin sunk a clutch 3-pointer on the next possession to push the Gael lead to seven with 1:28 left in overtime.

The Gaels held their lead by knocking down free throws and playing solid defense over the final 1:28. Saint Mary’s took home a seven-point win and finished the event with a record of 1-1.

Following the loss, WKU will be back in action on Wednesday evening for its final home game before the new year.

The Lady Toppers will take on Oklahoma (4-3) in Diddle Arena before going on the road for their next five games over the Christmas break.

Tipoff between WKU and the Sooners is slated for 6 p.m.

The game will be streamed live for ESPN+ subscribers.

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