Whitney Creech scores career-high 26 points, paces Lady Toppers in road victory at Samford

WKU Guard Whitney Creech (5) drives to basket while being guarded by Kentucky Wesleyan forward Keelie Lamb (14). The Lady Toppers defeated the Panthers 72-60 in Diddle Arena on Thursday October 31.

Jesse Spencer

The WKU women’s basketball team (8-2) muscled its way to a hard-fought victory on Sunday evening, as the Lady Toppers scored 40 points in the paint in an 88-84 road win against Samford (3-9) in the Pete Hanna Center in Birmingham, Alabama. 

Both the Lady Toppers and Bulldogs lit it up from the field in the second all-time meeting between the two schools, as eight of the game’s 10 starters notched double-digit scoring outputs.

WKU shot 56% from the field, 41% from deep and 75% from the free-throw line. Defensively, the Lady Toppers were able to snatch nine steals and turned 15 Bulldog turnovers into 24 points on the offensive end. 

Senior point guard Whitney Creech scored a career-high 26 points and almost put together an immaculate shooting performance.

Creech made all 10 shots she attempted from the field, but she went a near-perfect 4 for 5 at the charity stripe.

Alexandria, Egypt, native Raneem Elgedawy had yet another dominant game in the post, as she scored 23 points, grabbed eight rebounds and became the 41st member of the WKU 1,000 Point Club early in the second half.

Junior guard Sherry Porter found her stroke early and rode her hot shooting to 18 huge points, while sophomore guard Meral Abdelgawad rounded out the WKU starting five with eight points and five rebounds in 21 minutes of action.

The Lady Topper bench contributed a mere two points on the game, and redshirt senior guard Alexis Brewer was held scoreless in her second game since returning from a shoulder injury.

Samford shot 50% from the field, 39% from behind the arc and 77% from the charity stripe. The Bulldogs dominated WKU in bench points, winning that battle 17-2.

But Samford couldn’t finish the game off when it counted, shooting only 35% from the field in the fourth quarter.

Senior guard Sarah Myers led the way for Samford with 20 points and six rebounds. Senior guard Charity Brown filled up the stat sheet with 15 points, seven rebounds and eight assists. 

Junior wing Shauntai Battle and junior center Natalie Armstrong scored 13 apiece to round out the leading scorers for the Bulldogs. 

Samford grabbed the opening tip, and Battle took it right down the lane for an easy two points to start the action. The Bulldogs continued this intensity to jump out to an early lead over the Lady Toppers, scoring 10 points by the 7:42 mark in the first. 

WKU answered with a hot shooting stretch of its own, as the Lady Toppers knocked down seven of their first nine shots.

Porter spearheaded a 10-2 run going into the first media timeout by draining two deep 3-pointers and giving the Lady Toppers their first lead of the game with 4:30 left in the first period.

The back-and-forth battle continued after the media timeout, as both teams lit up the scoreboard at will. The action was free-flowing and allowed both teams to get out and run throughout the quarter as only two fouls were called between the two teams. 

The Lady Toppers were able to score the final four points of the opening quarter and grow their lead to four going into the second frame.

WKU attacked the paint early and often, as the Lady Toppers scored 14 of their 26 first quarter points in the lane and used these easy looks to shoot 73% from the field in the quarter.

Both teams came out of the break slowly compared to the first 10 minutes of action. Elgedawy dropped in the first four points of the quarter for the Lady Toppers to bring her point total to eight and extend the WKU lead to six with 7:28 left in the half.

Samford stalled a 6-2 mini-run by the Lady Toppers, as redshirt senior forward Olivia Crozier finished a tough layup with 6:53 left in the frame.

Porter and Creech then responded with 3-pointers of their own to extend the Lady Topper lead to 10 with 5:29 left in the second. 

After another Bulldog layup in the paint, Porter sunk yet another 3-pointer to push the lead back to double figures for WKU. This shot pushed her point total to a game-high 14 on four 3-pointers and 5-of-6 shooting overall. 

In addition to the stellar shooting from the Lady Toppers, their defense to finish the half was superb. They held the Bulldogs scoreless for 4:18 of clock time before finally allowing a bucket. 

The uptick in effort on the defensive end allowed WKU to swell its lead to 14 and finish the half on an 8-2 run. The Lady Toppers forced nine Samford turnovers and converted those turnovers into 13 points on the other end. 

The Lady Toppers finished the half up 46-32 thanks to 14 points from Porter and 13 points from Creech on a combined 11-of-12 shooting performance.

Redshirt senior forward Dee Givens and Elgedawy also scored nine and eight, respectively, while the WKU bench scored only two points in the first 20 minutes of play.

Givens finished the game with 11 points in 37 minutes.

Elgedawy came out of the halftime break stroking it from all over the floor, as she scored the first nine points of the half for the Lady Toppers and became the 41st member of the WKU 1,000 Point Club in the process.

After the Elgedawy 9-2 run to open the third quarter, Myers knocked down two 3-pointers of her own to get the lead back under 20 points. 

Creech and Abdelgawad combined for a short 5-0 run of their own to swell the Lady Topper lead to 23 with 6:30 left in the third.

After amassing its biggest lead of the game, WKU gave up back-to-back threes to the Bulldogs to have the lead cut to 17. 

Elgedawy finished another layup in the paint to bring the frantic scoring to a temporary halt due to a media timeout with 4:48 left in the period.

Prior to the timeout, the Lady Toppers shot 7-of-10 in the quarter and the Bulldogs drained 4-of-6 shots in the quarter. 

Samford used the break to its advantage and came out on fire to finish the third quarter. After an Abdelgawad three, the Bulldogs put together a massive 13-0 run in the final 2:16 of the third. 

This run cut the Lady Topper lead to six and completely eliminated any momentum WKU hoped to carry into the fourth.

Myers carried Samford in the third, scoring 13 points on 5-of-6 shooting and grabbing four rebounds in 10 minutes of play. 

Samford opened the final quarter with two more free throws the push its scoring run to 15-0 and cut the lead to four with 9:48 remaining in the game.

Creech then stepped in and stopped the bleeding, mounting a 6-0 run of her own by hitting another 3-pointer and converting an and-one opportunity to extend the Lady Topper lead back to 10 with 7:46 left to play.

After another rebound by Creech, Collins called a timeout to regroup his team and prepare them for the final push. 

Givens emerged out of the break with two free throws to push the WKU lead to 12 and her point total to 10 on the game. The Bulldogs soon stopped the Lady Topper run at 8-0, as redshirt senior guard Ta’naisha Hill scored in the paint with 6:05 left. 

This layup sparked the Samford offense yet again, and the squad cut the lead back to five with a 7-0 run of its own. Abdelgawad briefly stopped the late push by the Bulldogs with a layup with 3:20 left in the game.

Beginning at the 1:53 mark in the fourth, both teams traded buckets for the remainder of the contest and inflated an 80-73 margin to an 88-84 final score.

But the Lady Toppers were able to win the battle at the free-throw line when it counted, as WKU closed out the game at the stripe to steal a tight four-point win on the road.

Following the win, the Lady Toppers will stay on the road for their next three games to wrap up both non-conference play and the 2019 calendar year.

WKU will travel to West Lafayette, Indiana, on Wednesday to take on Purdue (7-3) — the third and final Power 5 opponent on the Lady Toppers’ tough non-conference slate.

The Boilermakers tallied a pair of solid neutral-site wins over Drake (7-2) and Power 5 Arizona State (8-2) in the Gulf Coast Showcase on Nov. 29-30, but fell short against No. 17 Gonzaga (9-1) on Dec. 1 and at Power 5 Virginia Tech (8-1) on Dec. 5.

Purdue was also blown out at No. 5 South Carolina on Sunday, dropping an 85-49 road decision.

Tipoff in Mackey Arena is set for 11 a.m. on Dec. 18.

The game will be streamed live for BTN+ subscribers.

Editor’s note: A previous version of this story stated that the Lady Toppers’ matchup with Samford was the first-ever meeting between the two schools. The game was actually the second contest in the all-time series. The article has since been corrected. The Herald regrets the error.

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