Lady Toppers hold off LA Tech to secure victory

WKU guard Meral Abdelgawad (30) celebrates a three point shot in the first quarter during the Lady Toppers’ game against Louisiana Tech on Saturday, January 26 at Diddle Arena. CHRIS KOHLEY/HERALD

Drake Kizer

The WKU women’s basketball team notched their sixth win in Conference USA play against Louisiana Tech on Saturday afternoon, surviving a late scare from the Lady Techsters by converting free throws in the game’s waning moments.

WKU (12-9, 6-1 C-USA) maintained its lead for 37:19 of clock time against LA Tech (10-11, 2-6 C-USA). Senior guard Kierra Anthony, the top scorer in C-USA, tallied 23 points for the Lady Techsters, however the Lady Toppers were tight on the defensive end overall, forcing nine steals and 17 turnovers in a blow-for-blow 81-76 fight inside Diddle Arena.

“We’re trying to teach and grow,” head coach Greg Collins said. “And it’s good to win, but it’s good to learn in a win like this. So, had we gone on and won by 18 or 20, I’m not sure we would have gotten the same lessons that we get to take away from this one.”

The Lady Toppers were led by redshirt junior forward Dee Givens and sophomore forward Raneem Elgedawy. Givens scored 18 points and grabbed five rebounds, while Elgedawy also scored 18 points and snagged a team-high seven boards.

LA Tech drained a 3-pointer to open the contest, gaining an early advantage over the Lady Toppers. A 3-pointer from Anthony gave the Lady Techsters a 6-4 lead, but WKU was not shaken by the first make from the league’s top scorer.

The Lady Toppers answered with a 10-0 run, which included 3-pointers from Givens and freshman guard Meral Abdelgawad. The scoring stretch put WKU in front, 14-6.

Givens scored five points in the last five minutes of the frame, bringing her total to 10 in only the first quarter of play.

The Lady Toppers lead the Lady Techsters after 10 minutes, 21-12.

The second quarter began with another 3-pointer from LA Tech, but WKU had an answer for the Lady Techsters once again. Redshirt junior guard Alexis Brewer nailed her first shot from beyond the arc, sparking a 11-0 scoring run that gave the Lady Toppers a sizable lead with 5:53 remaining, 34-17.

The Lady Techsters’ bench was assessed a technical foul at the 3:41 mark, which resulted in two made free throws by Givens. Givens’ makes capped off an 8-0 run which gave WKU an even larger advantage, 42-23. LA Tech managed to maintain its offensive intensity down the stretch, trimming its deficit to just under 20 points at halftime, 53-35.

Sophomore guard Sherry Porter sank layups on back-to-back possessions to begin the third quarter, but WKU’s offense quickly turned sour. After Brewer made a layup at the 6:37 mark, the Lady Toppers did not register another point for the rest of the frame.

The Lady Techsters capitalized, enjoying an 11-0 run to end the third quarter. LA Tech was not particularly hot on offense either, as the scoreboard remained stagnant for both teams after Anthony swished a jumper for the Lady Techsters with 2:11 left to play.

WKU still led by nine despite a total lack of offense in the third frame, 59-50.

LA Tech refused to go way in the fourth quarter, giving the Lady Toppers everything they could handle. Though both WKU and LA Tech were making shots, the Lady Techsters made a dent in their deficit by utilizing short scoring bursts, including a 5-0 run and a 6-0 run during the first several minutes of the period.

Sophomore guard Raizel Guinto, who finished with 19 points on six made 3-pointers, brought the Lady Techsters to within three at the 2:30 mark, 73-70.

“I felt like they had a lot of momentum right there,” Givens said. “So, after that we just had to lock down on defense and try to score.”

The Lady Toppers remained calm and befriended the free-throw line in crunch time, sinking six foul shots. Anthony made four free throws in the final eight seconds for LA Tech, but it was simply not enough. WKU held on, securing a gritty five-point victory.

Following the win, the Lady Toppers will head to Texas for their second road trip of C-USA play. WKU will meet Texas-San Antonio (6-13, 1-6 C-USA) in a weekday matchup on Jan 31. Two days later, the Lady Toppers will square off against Texas-El Paso (4-16, 1-6 C-USA) at 2 p.m. on Feb. 2. WKU will look to cap off its first month of league action with a win over UTSA Thursday at 11 a.m. in UTSA Convocation Center.

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