Lady Toppers win 5th straight, defeat Tulsa in Saint Mary’s Thanksgiving Classic

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 (5-1) outlasted Tulsa (3-3) in a 76-63 road win on Friday afternoon, as the Lady Toppers opened up a five-game winning streak in their first contest of the Saint Mary’s Thanksgiving Classic.

WKU took on Tulsa for the first time in program history in the McKeon Pavilion in Moraga, California. This was the first of back-to-back games on the west coast for the Lady Toppers.

The Lady Toppers took advantage of their aggressive defensive play to convert 17 Golden Hurricane turnovers into 24 points on the other end. But WKU struggled in the second half, shooting only 38% from the field and turning the ball over 11 times in the final two quarters.

WKU shot 46% from the field, 26% from behind the arc and a stellar 83% from the free throw line over the course of the game.

The Lady Toppers were able to build separation from Tulsa through their dominance in the paint, outscoring the Golden Hurricane 38-26 around the basket.

Junior forward Raneem Elgedawy put up yet another double-double to lead the way for WKU, scoring 18 points and securing 10 rebounds.

Senior point guard Whitney Creech and redshirt senior Dee Givens scored 15 points each, while Cairo, Egypt, native Meral Abdelgawad scored 11 to round out the scoring leaders. 

Tulsa shot 39% from the field, 31% from three and 61% from the charity stripe. The Golden Hurricane outscored the Lady Topper bench 14-9 and held a one rebound advantage on the offensive end, but were bested by WKU is almost every other major statistical category.

The Golden Hurricane had four players score in double figures, but senior forward Kendrian Elliott scored 14 points and pulled down five rebounds to lead the Tulsa attack.

Sophomore forward Desiree Lewis had a solid performance as well, draining 10 points and leading the team in rebounding for the game with nine. 

The game began with both teams knocking down 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions, but the hounding perimeter defense forced both teams to attack the paint.

Tulsa was able to break down the WKU press and get the ball into the lane to spark an early 9-2 run with 6:42 left in the first. 

Elgedawy struggled mightily early, as she turned the ball over three times in the first four minutes of play.

Redshirt senior forward Sandra Skinner entered the game as her replacement and made an immediate impact by scoring a tough layup on her first possession of play.

Following the media timeout, the Lady Toppers amassed a 6-0 run sparked by solid defense and aggression on the fast break by Abdelgawad.

WKU scored six fast-break points in the first, but they did not allow Tulsa to get out and run and held them to zero points on the break.

Creech turned up the intensity for WKU by taking the offensive initiative and going on a 7-0 run by herself. She brought her point total to nine on 4-of-4 shooting by the end of the first period. 

The Lady Toppers allowed a late 3-pointer by senior guard Alexis Gaulden to cut the WKU lead to five going into the second period.

WKU shot a scorching 64% from the field in the first and held the Golden Hurricane to only 40% shooting to build a 20-15 lead.

The game remained tight through the first four minutes of the second frame. Both teams traded buckets until the Givens broke free for a deep 3-pointer and Elgedawy scrapped her way to an offensive rebound and tough putback to extend the Lady Topper run to 9-0. 

Creech drained her fifth consecutive shot of the game to push the Lady Topper lead to 11 on yet another fast break layup for WKU and forced Tulsa into a timeout at the 5:41 mark in the second.

Creech didn’t miss her first shot of the game until a mid-range floater with 4:58 left in the half. 

The Lady Toppers held their lead through their hounding defense and their ability to finish opportunities close to the bucket.

Elgedawy was able to recover from her atrocious start to the game by tallying 10 points and five rebounds after being benched four minutes into the contest.

The half ended with WKU completely dominating the second quarter of action. The Lady Toppers outscored the Golden Hurricane in the paint 24-10 and scored 12 more fast-break points than Tulsa to build their lead going into the half.

Creech, Givens and Elgedawy all scored in double figures in the first half to lead the Lady Toppers and combined for seven of the team’s 10 total steals.

WKU took a 15-point lead into the break thanks to its hounding defensive effort that allowed the Golden Hurricane to shoot a mere 33% from the field. 

Both teams came out of the half playing at a frantic pace and attacking the rim at will. Tulsa scorched the nets early in the third, shooting 71% from the field at the 5:54 mark in the third. 

WKU was able to keep pace by hitting 50% of their shots by the same point in the period.

The Lady Toppers and the Golden Hurricane played the entire third quarter matching each other shot-for-shot with neither gaining ground.

Givens attacked the basket with three seconds left in the quarter and finished a tough and-one to steal the momentum back heading to the fourth.

WKU outscored Tulsa 16-14 in the third period and extended its lead to 17 going into the final 10 minutes of play. Elgedawy scored eight of the 16 Lady Topper points in the quarter, moving into the team-lead in scoring and rebounding for the game with 18 and seven.

The fourth quarter started in the same way as the third with both teams fighting for points in the paint. At the 7:35 mark in the final quarter, Givens came down awkwardly on her left ankle attempting to pull down a rebound. 

Givens would not be able to reenter the contest. 

Both teams struggled mightily to score in the final frame, with Tulsa shooting 37% in the quarter and WKU knocking down only 20% of its shots. The Golden Hurricane went on a short 5-0 run to cut the Lady Topper lead to 15 with 4:17 left to play.

WKU was simply too much for Tulsa and had built too big of a lead to allow the Golden Hurricane to climb back into the contest.

The Lady Toppers came away with a hard-fought 13-point victory due to four of their five starters scoring in double figures and posting strong play in the paint on both ends of the floor.

Following the win, WKU will be back in action on Saturday evening for its final game in the Saint Mary’s Thanksgiving Classic.

The Lady Toppers are set to square off with the event’s host team, Saint Mary’s (2-3). The Gaels and Marquette (4-2) took the floor shortly after WKU and Tulsa finished on Friday afternoon.

Tipoff between WKU and Saint Mary’s is slated for 4 p.m.

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