Lady Toppers drop second straight, slide down C-USA standings

Lady Toppers head coach Greg Collins reacts to a WKU foul in the game against North Texas on Saturday in Diddle Arena. The Mean Green won 76-67. CHRIS KOHLEY/HERALD

Drake Kizer

The WKU women’s basketball team was exposed against North Texas on Saturday afternoon, as the Mean Green imposed their will on the Lady Toppers and notched the club’s first-ever win at Diddle Arena by dominating the glass from start-to-finish.

WKU (14-11, 8-3 C-USA) dropped its second consecutive game in Conference USA play to North Texas (12-11, 5-6 C-USA), also losing the program’s eight-game winning streak against the Mean Green. The game was decided inside, as North Texas out-rebounded WKU 37-24 and grabbed 19 offensive rebounds in its 76-67 road win.

“We kept getting lost on defense,” head coach Greg Collins said. “We had three or four players that were locked in, then we had one or two that we were always trying to cover up for and we just keep getting exposed… Until we get tougher on the boards, tougher on defense, we’re going to be in these kind of battles night-in, night-out and we’re not going to come out on the positive end.”

The Lady Toppers were led by sophomore forward Raneem Elgedawy and junior guard Whitney Creech for the second consecutive contest. Elgedawy had a team-high 14 points and seven boards, while Creech added 11 points and six assists for WKU.

Elgedawy drilled a layup nine seconds into the contest, sparking a 7-2 WKU run to begin the game. Freshman guard Meral Abdelgawad capped off that run with a three-point play at the foul line, but the Mean Green drew closer with a 4-0 run of their own.

The Lady Toppers continued to push, mounting a 7-0 run that was once again polished off by an Abdelgawad and-one. After falling behind 14-6, North Texas held WKU scoreless for over three minutes. A 3-pointer from senior guard Sidnee Bopp put WKU ahead by six with 0:33 to play, but the Mean Green managed a buzzer-beating layup.

WKU led 19-15 to begin the second period, but the Lady Toppers witnessed that lead quickly evaporate after North Texas opened the frame on a 4-0 run. Following a tie at 8:50, the lead changed hands on nearly every possession for the rest of the quarter.

Elgedawy was huge for the Lady Toppers in the second quarter, tallying eight points in the painted area. Junior post Anisha George, the owner of C-USA’s best field goal percentage in league play, countered by scoring six points inside for the Mean Green.

An Elgedawy jumper with 0:03 remaining untied a knotted score, giving the Lady Toppers a two-point lead to take with them into halftime, 38-36.

Two North Texas free throws tied the game early in the third period, beginning another stretch that saw multiple ties and lead changes between the two squads. The Mean Green took a 47-46 lead after a 3-pointer at the 5:53 mark, but a 3-point play and a jumper from junior guard Whitney Creech helped WKU establish a 51-49 lead.

Scoring between North Texas and WKU was almost dead even in the third quarter, 21-20. Most of the points tallied in the final minutes were from the foul line, with both teams taking plenty of shots at the stripe down the stretch.

Redshirt junior forward Dee Givens concluded the third period by giving the Lady Toppers a narrow three-point lead at the free-throw line, 59-56.

In the fourth quarter, the wheels completely came off for WKU.

“It was just shots wasn’t falling,” sophomore guard Sherry Porter said of the team’s fourth-quarter meltdown. “I think we got down on ourselves but it’s something we have to learn from, move on and play the next play, play the next game.”

The Mean Green began the fourth quarter on a back-breaking 16-0 run, digging a 72-59 hole that the Lady Toppers could never quite dig themselves out of for the rest of the contest. WKU did not register a single point until the 3:15 mark of the fourth quarter.

By then, it was nearly too late for the Lady Toppers to mount any sort of comeback. But WKU did not simply lay down, rattling off a late 6-0 run that brought its deficit down to seven points with under a minute to play. North Texas sank one more layup to conclude the game, coasting to a nine-point win on the road in Bowling Green.

Following the loss, the Lady Toppers will not play at home for almost a month. WKU will be on the road at Middle Tennessee (18-5, 9-1 C-USA) and Alabama-Birmingham (19-4, 7-3 C-USA) next week, two of the team’s four straight away tilts to round out C-USA play. The Lady Toppers will look for a road win Thursday at 6:30 p.m. in Murfreesboro.

Women’s basketball reporter Drake Kizer can be reached at 270-745-2653 and [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @drakekizer_.