Lady Toppers stay undefeated in C-USA with hot shooting performance against FIU

Ladytopper Raneem Elgedawy drives to the net while being fouled by Southern Illinois University’s defense at EA Diddle Arena on Nov. 20.

Drake Kizer

The WKU women’s basketball team fought off an early scare on Thursday morning, squaring off against a hot-shooting Florida International team that was spurred on by a raucous crowd of schoolchildren visiting for Education Day.

The Lady Toppers (10-8, 4-0 Conference USA) did their best to silence the crowd, nailing 10 3-pointers for the third consecutive game. WKU shot a blistering 57 percent from the floor and 56 percent from deep against the Panthers (3-15, 0-5 C-USA), skating to its fifth consecutive win with a 94-82 road victory in the Ocean Bank Convocation Center.

Redshirt junior forward Dee Givens and sophomore Raneem Elgedawy both excelled for the Lady Toppers. Givens played 40 minutes, grabbing seven rebounds and nailing seven 3-pointers to finish the contest with a career-high 31 points. Elgedawy also had quite a day, snatching a team-high nine rebounds and scoring a career-high 28 points.

“It was a great atmosphere with the kids,” head coach Greg Collins said on the postgame radio show. “You know, it was a lot of fun having the noise in the gym. That was a good learning opportunity for our players… But I felt like Dee and Raneem were just determined to make sure we come out of here with a win and you know, that’s what you want from your leaders on the floor.”

Givens opened the game with a 3-pointer, kicking off a 5-0 run to start the game for WKU. FIU answered with two quick makes, pulling back to within one, 5-4. The score stayed tight from there, with both teams trading buckets. After a 5-0 run, FIU took its first lead of the game halfway through the frame, 11-10.

From there, the Panthers continued to make buckets at an extremely high rate.

FIU finished the opening period shooting 62 percent from the floor and 67 percent from beyond the arc after nailing a trio of 3-pointers down the stretch. Only Givens, Elgedawy and redshirt junior guard Alexis Brewer scored for the Lady Toppers in the first quarter.

But WKU stayed tight despite its unbalanced attack, trailing only 22-21 after 10 minutes.

The second quarter began with a 3-pointer from Brewer, but FIU answered quickly with a 3-pointer of its own. The Panthers and Lady Toppers continued trading baskets and the lead went back-and-forth.

During the offensive duel, Elgedawy pulled up from deep and nailed the first 3-pointer of her WKU career to give the Lady Toppers a thin 29-28 lead.

Neither team let the other get too far in front, as both WKU and FIU continued going on scoring runs, regaining the lead and then relinquishing it right back.

The Panthers built as much as a four-point advantage over the Lady Toppers thanks to four makes from the free-throw line, but a pair of buckets from Givens and sophomore guard Sherry Porter with under a minute to play in the period granted WKU a reprieve.

The Lady Toppers weathered an unexpected offensive storm by FIU and miraculously escaped a frantic first half with a one-point advantage over the Panthers, 43-42.

“To play defense, to get out and guard and not judge our success on whether we were running up and down the floor and scoring points,” Collins said about his halftime message on the postgame radio show.

Freshman guard Meral Abdelgawad opened the second half with a jumper, signaling an impending offensive run for the Lady Toppers. WKU continued to push tempo, mounting an 8-0 run which gave the Lady Toppers an 11-point lead with 6:54 remaining, 56-45.

FIU continued to chip away at the deficit, but Givens turned up the pressure in the third quarter. She knocked down five 3-pointers in the frame, extinguishing nearly all of FIU’s remaining offensive firepower. The Lady Toppers did not let up for one second on either end of the floor, ending the period with 34 points and a stout 18-point lead, 77-59.

“I guess it’s just muscle memory,” Givens said on the postgame radio show. “You know, getting in the gym and just working on my shot as much as I can and I think it’s just carrying onto the court in the game.”

The Panthers opened the final quarter on an 8-2 run, trimming their deficit to only 12 points. Elgedawy and Givens continued to score, cementing new career-bests in points for both players and helping the Lady Toppers maintain their advantage over FIU.

However, FIU did not go away without a fight in the final minutes of the contest.

The Panthers pulled to within 11 after draining two 3-pointers with under two minutes to play. But it was too little, too late for FIU. The Panthers decided not to intentionally foul the Lady Toppers, allowing WKU to cruise unabated to a 12-point road victory.

Following the win, WKU will be back on the floor in just two days for a matchup with Florida Atlantic (3-14, 0-4 C-USA). The Lady Toppers will look to finish their first C-USA road trip with a win against the Owls at 1 p.m. on Saturday in Boca Raton, Florida.

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