Hilltopper Hysteria: Lady Toppers showcase experienced group

Sophomore Guard Meral Abdelgawad (40) dribbles up the court in response to a turnover by the white team during Hilltopper Hysteria on Oct. 17th, 2019 in Diddle Arena.

Jesse Spencer

Hilltopper Hysteria started with a bang Thursday night when the WKU women’s basketball team took the floor in Diddle Arena and showcased its scrappy brand of basketball.

The 2019-20 Lady Toppers completed a 12-minute Red vs. Black scrimmage in front of their faithful fans, and the Black team defeated the Red team for a 17-12 win.

The abbreviated scrimmage provided a sampling of the experienced group of players that fans should expect to see this year on the Hill, which includes most of the contributors from the 2018-19 squad and several seasoned newcomers.

Second-year head coach Greg Collins began the night by issuing a warning to the Lady Topper faithful to not sit too close to the floor during games because his girls were going to play with a different energy this year.

Collins promised an exciting brand of basketball that focused on the defensive end and showcased the grit and hard work of his players.

“The focus this year has been on trying to solidify our defense and rebounding because those are the two biggest areas that we needed to improve on,” Collins said.

All of Collins’ players participated in the scrimmage except redshirt senior Alexis Brewer. She is expected to return this year, but the team is being patient with her rehabilitation process while she recovers from a labrum tear suffered late last season.

Redshirt senior Dee Givens led the Black team in scoring by drilling all three of her 3-pointers and being a strong leader on the defensive end. Junior Raneem Elgedawy held down the paint for the Red team by dropping in six points and allowing the offense to flow through her.

Junior Sherry Porter also had a strong performance for the Black team by tallying five points. Newly eligible Virginia Commonwealth transfer Sandra Skinner dropped in two points, while Mississippi transfer Bree Glover knocked down a free throw to round out the Black scoring.

Newcomer Fatou Pouye showed her aggression on offense by getting to the rack for four points for the Red team. Senior Whitney Creech totaled two points as well, looking calm and collected while facilitating the offense through strong passes and ball movement.

The Lady Toppers certainly didn’t disappoint, as they showcased their intensity by blocking shots, securing rebounds and even diving on the floor in a frantic chase for a loose ball.

“I think we are really good on defense right now,” Givens said. “I think our defense is ahead of our offense.”

Tough defense dominated the night, as both teams battled throughout the scrimmage. But the true joy of playing the game with each other shone through more than anything for both Collins and his players.

“The team chemistry is really good, really strong,” Collins said. “They enjoy being together and working hard together. You can see that effort on the floor.”

Collins said he hopes to improve on his team’s 20-15 record and Women’s National Invitation Tournament appearance last year, and he knows his team will be tested early and often. 

“We had a good season last year, but we did not finish where we wanted to finish,” Collins said. “We are going to open up with pretty tough teams. We have Louisville off the bat, and then we have four teams who are all NCAA [Tournament] teams.”

The Lady Toppers will open play with an exhibition against Kentucky Wesleyan on Oct. 31 at 7 p.m. in Diddle Arena. The regular season begins the following Tuesday with a tough road test against Louisville on Nov. 5 at 6 p.m. in the KFC Yum! Center. 

Reporter Jesse Spencer can be reached at [email protected]