Lady Toppers will be in search of fortune-changing win at Marshall

Freshman forward Jae’Lisa Allen charges toward the hoop during the Lady Toppers’game against Marshall on Jan. 12, 2019.

Drake Kizer

The WKU women’s basketball team began its daunting stretch of four consecutive Conference USA road games last week in the midst of a two-game losing streak.

The Lady Toppers, still slotted fourth in C-USA standings, knew they could move closer to clinching a top-four finish and first-round bye in the C-USA Tournament against Middle Tennessee (19-7, 10-3 C-USA) and Alabama-Birmingham (21-5, 9-4 C-USA).

“All season, from day one, I said this is all about three games in three days, and you can’t get three games in three days if you don’t get a bye,” head coach Greg Collins said. “And so, this road swing is really big for us, because we have an opportunity to put ourselves in a position to get a bye or put ourselves in a position where it’ll be difficult to get a bye.”

WKU (14-13, 8-5 C-USA) did the latter, extending its losing streak to four games and dropping itself into a tiewith Old Dominion (17-8, 8-5 C-USA) for fourth place in C-USA.

The Lady Toppers failed to reach 70 points against the Blue Raiders or Blazers while also continuing their struggles on the defensive end. Redshirt junior forward Dee Givens did not quite get back on track, but redshirt junior guard Alexis Brewer returned to form.

The Blue Raiders shot a school-record 67 percent from the field on Thursday. MTSU outscored the Lady Toppers 40-20 inside and out-rebounded them 19-17 in an 81-69 win.

The Blazers shot 51 percent from the floor on Saturday. UAB lost the inside-scoring battle 36-24 but made up for that deficit by out-rebounding WKU 34-24 in a 70-63 victory.

“You know, our kids, they played hard, they’re trying,” Collins said. “We’re just not as good as some of these teams that we’re playing right now. But we’re going to fix it.”

The solution to most of the Lady Toppers’ issues this season has been Givens, but the normally sharp-shooting forward has not seemed right in four consecutive games.

Givens scored 12 points on one made field goal thanks to a 10-for-10 night at the charity stripe against MTSU and posted 14 points and six rebounds at UAB.

“The difference is the teams are denying me the ball,” Givens said. “So, it’s harder for me to get the ball, and then they are playing off some of my teammates. I mean, I still feel the same as I was for the past 20-plus games, so I’m just depending on my teammates— for them to make shots.”

Meanwhile, Brewer returned to the starting lineup and made an immediate impact, posting a team-high 13 points against MTSU and a team-high 21 points at UAB.

“It helps a ton, because you’ve got somebody out there that’s a competitor,” Collins said. “You’ve got somebody out there that wants to win worse than anything, and she’s not in love with her points. She’s in love with winning.”

Following two tough losses, the Lady Toppers have only three regular-season games remaining. WKU has already faced each of its final three opponents, posting a 1-2 record in its previous contests against Marshall, North Texas and MTSU.

WKU, currently halfway into a four-game road swing, will attempt to kick-start its climb back into contention this week against Marshall (15-11, 9-4 C-USA).

The Thundering Herd are currently tied with UAB for third place in league standings.
The Lady Toppers defeated the

Thundering Herd 85-55 on Jan. 12, but that game was in Diddle Arena. WKU will have to duplicate its previous success in the Cam Henderson Center, where Marshall has posted a 10-4 record this year. Marshall will be riding high, as the Thundering Herd was able to knock off second-place MTSU 59-53 on Saturday.

“It’ll be the same story against Marshall and North Texas and Middle Tennessee all over again,” Collins said. “It’ll come down to whether we’re going to lock down on defense and whether we’re going to box out and rebound, and that’ll be it from this point out.”

WKU will try to notch another win over Marshall Saturday at 12 p.m. in Huntington, West Virginia.

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