Lady Toppers overcome sloppy start, defeat D-II opponent Kentucky Wesleyan in exhibition

Sophomore guard Meral Abdelgawad (40) awaits the helping hands of her teammate senior guard Whitney Creech (5) after getting fouled on a layup during the Lady Toppers’ game against Kentucky Wesleyan in Diddle Arena on Thursday, Oct. 31 in Bowling Green.

Jesse Spencer

The WKU women’s basketball team scratched and clawed its way to a 72-60 exhibition win over Division II Kentucky Wesleyan on Thursday night in Diddle Arena, overcoming a 10-point deficit in the first quarter to claim their only tuneup before the regular season.

WKU used its size and power to control the paint over the course of the game, outrebounding Kentucky Wesleyan 53-28 and outscoring the Panthers in the paint 30-18. 

The Panthers stuck around by shooting 50% from beyond the arc in the first half and 39% from distance throughout the entire game.

WKU struggled from the charity stripe, knocking down only 50% of their attempts, while Kentucky Wesleyan shot 67% from the line for the game.

However, the Lady Toppers shot 24 free throws as opposed to only six attempts from the Panthers.

“Well, I think what helps us the most is that we’ve got good film,” head coach Greg Collins said. “We are going to sit down and have a good instructional session right after we have a good running session for giving up uncontested threes. And now they will get better because we had some kids who thought they were better than they really are.”

Redshirt senior forward Dee Givens scored a team-high 19 points and grabbed nine rebounds, while junior forward Raneem Elgedawy dropped in a double-double by tallying 15 points and snatching 16 rebounds of her own.

Senior point guard Whitney Creech also filled up the stat sheet by tallying four points, six rebounds and seven assists while playing all 40 minutes for the Lady Toppers.

“I think through adversity is where you grow the most, and a lot of things did not go our way tonight,” Creech said. “But we kept battling, we kept fighting and pulled out a win. I think it’s more beneficial when you’re in a tight, close game where you have to battle and work your way to a win instead of just coming out and blowing a team out.”

The Lady Toppers struggled early in the first, failing to score until the 6:39 mark on a short jumper from Givens. 

Elgedawy and Givens scrapped for extra possessions on the offensive end by ripping down three rebounds each. But both players struggled from the field during the first quarter, as the duo combined for 2-of-12 shooting from the floor.

Kentucky Wesleyan came out of the media timeout firing, as the Panthers mounted a 9-0 run on three straight 3-pointers to increase their lead over WKU to 23-13.

Collins called a timeout to stop the bleeding and settle the Lady Toppers down with 1:35 left in the first frame.

Junior guard Sherry Porter provided a lift off the bench following the timeout, knocking down a free throw and a 3-pointer in the closing moments of the first to make the score 26-19 in favor of the Panthers at the end of the first quarter.

The Lady Toppers came out angry in the second quarter, attacking on offense and scrapping for loose balls on defense. WKU rode this newfound energy to its first lead of the game with 5:22 left in the half, going ahead 29-28 on a layup from sophomore guard Meral Abdelgawad.

The Panthers fought back after the initial push from the Lady Toppers by going on a 14-7 run to end the second quarter and reclaiming a six-point advantage.

Kentucky Wesleyan went into the half with a 42-36 lead over WKU thanks to eight made 3-pointers and 51.6% shooting from the field as a whole. 

The second half started with both teams trading buckets, but the Panthers eventually jumped out to a nine-point lead with 5:13 left to play in the third quarter, 50-41.

The Lady Toppers then went on a tear defensively to finish the third quarter on a 10-3 run. WKU didn’t allow a bucket for over five minutes and regained the lead over the Panthers with 51 seconds remaining before the final quarter, 51-50.

WKU entered the fourth period down 53-51 after allowing redshirt freshman Tahlia Walton to knock down a 3-pointer for Kentucky Wesleyan with seven ticks left on the clock in the third.

The fourth quarter began with two free throws by Porter and a layup by Kentucky Wesleyan before Givens took charge offensively for the Lady Toppers.

Givens poured in five points over during WKU’s 7-0 run before Collins called a timeout at the 5:16 mark to bring a stop to some frantic play on the court.

After the timeout, the Lady Toppers extended their scoring run to 14-0 before finally allowing a bucket to the sputtering Panther offense at the 2:24 mark.

WKU continued its onslaught, finishing the game on a 19-5 run and escaping the team’s lone exhibition contest with a 12-point win.

Following the exhibition win, WKU will be back in action against Power 5 Louisville next Tuesday night. The Lady Toppers and Cardinals will square off in the KFC Yum! Center on Nov. 5 at 6 p.m. The game will be broadcasted on ACC Network Extra. 

Reporter Jesse Spencer can be reached at [email protected]