Lady Toppers cruise past UTSA on the road

Lady Toppers’ head coach Greg Collins instructs the team during their 75-60 win over Old Dominion on Saturday at Diddle Arena.

Drake Kizer

The WKU women’s basketball team scored the program’s first-ever win at Texas-San Antonio on Thursday morning, as the Lady Toppers overcame the Roadrunners’ noisy Education Day crowd to notch their seventh victory of the year in Conference USA play.

WKU (13-9, 7-1 C-USA) had an advantage inside against UTSA (6-14, 1-7 C-USA), out-rebounding the Roadrunners 31-29 and outscoring them in the paint 38-28. The Lady Toppers also clamped down on the defensive end, forcing 23 turnovers and nabbing 11 steals in a comfortable 81-62 road win inside UTSA Convocation Center.

The Lady Toppers were led to victory by a pair of stellar performances from redshirt junior forward Dee Givens and sophomore forward Raneem Elgedawy.

“You can’t say enough about Dee Givens and Raneem Elgedawy,“ head coach Greg Collins said on the postgame radio show. “We were getting the ball in the right people’s hands and we were getting some good looks, but then everybody else was doing a good job of keeping pressure and forcing turnovers in the first half.”

Givens finished her day with a team-high 25 points, five rebounds and five takeaways. Of Givens’ 25 points, 22 came in the first half of play alone. Elgedawy added an additional 16 points and four rebounds to the box score for WKU in 22 minutes.

“The main focus was have energy,” Givens said on the postgame radio show. “The Southern Miss game, we didn’t have any energy. So, we just tried to take that as a lesson coming in to this game, have energy and rebound because UTSA is a really good rebounding team. So, that was another focus for us.”

UTSA struck first, opening the game with a jumper to take a 2-0 lead. WKU answered with an 8-0 run, aided by back-to-back 3-pointers from Givens and sophomore guard Sherry Porter. Junior forward Tija Hawkins knocked down layups on two consecutive possessions for the Roadrunners and helped cut their deficit down to three, 11-8.

Elgedawy took matters into her own hands, knocking in layups on three consecutive possessions to pull the Lady Toppers back in front, 17-8. Following that stretch, WKU did not score for nearly three minutes and allowed UTSA to go on a 7-0 run.

The Lady Toppers ended the first quarter with a 3-pointer from sophomore guard Terri Smith and a buzzer-beating jumper from Givens, building a 22-15 advantage.

WKU carried its momentum into the second period, opening the frame on a 9-0 scoring run which bloated UTSA’s deficit to 16 points. The Roadrunners did not allow the Lady Toppers to turn them into roadkill though, finishing off a three-point play at the 6:06 mark to pull back within striking distance, 34-22.

Both teams shot the ball well down the stretch in the second period, trading makes from both the floor and the foul line. Givens nailed two 3-pointers in the last 1:08 of the quarter, helping WKU outscore UTSA 30-18 in the second period.

WKU carried a sizable advantage over the Roadrunners into the halftime break, 52-33.

Like the first half, UTSA opened the second half with a made jumper. But the Lady Toppers continued to apply pressure, sinking seven free throws in the first portion of the third quarter. A made jumper by junior guard Whitney Creech put WKU in front by 24 points at the 5:53 mark, 39-63.

Neither team did much scoring in the closing minutes of the third period, although UTSA did its best to chip away at the Lady Toppers’ lead by making shots at the foul line.

Givens erased most of the Roadrunners’ efforts by drilling yet another 3-pointer on WKU’s final full possession of the quarter, putting UTSA down 72-44 after three.

UTSA began the fourth quarter trailing the Lady Toppers by a whopping 28 points. But Junior forward Marie Benson, who finished with a game-high 26 points, did not allow the Roadrunners’ large deficit to discourage her or her teammates from executing offense.

Although UTSA outscored WKU 18-9 in the fourth quarter, it was simply too little, too late for the Roadrunners. The Lady Toppers ran away from the start, escaping San Antonio with a 19-point conference win that will likely prove critical to C-USA standings.

Following the win, the Lady Toppers will be back on the hardwood in just two days for a meeting with Texas-El Paso (4-16, 1-6 C-USA). WKU fell in its visit to UTEP one year ago, 80-75. The Lady Toppers will look to start off their second month of C-USA play with a victory over the Miners Saturday at 2 p.m. in the Don Haskins Center.

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