Lady Toppers cruise past D-II opponent Bellarmine

WKU Forward Dee Givens (4) and UTEP Guard Barbara Benson (33) go after a loose ball during the Lady Toppers 78-50 win in first game of the Conference USA tournament against University of Texas at San Antonio on Thursday March 8, 2018 at The Star in Frisco, Tx. Givens scored 10 points in the Lady Toppers’ win.

Drake Kizer

The WKU women’s basketball team notched its third straight victory by conquering Bellarmine on Saturday afternoon.

The Lady Toppers (5-6) dominated the Knights (5-1) down the stretch, cruising to a 95-57 victory over BU inside Diddle Arena. WKU out-rebounded its opponent for the third straight contest, 37-30. The Lady Toppers shot 55 percent from the floor and outscored the Knights in the paint, 50-36.

The Knights shot 42 percent from the field and 25 percent from deep. BU committed 23 turnovers, which translated to 22 points for WKU on the other end. The Knights stuck around early, only trailing the Lady Toppers by six after the first quarter.

“There was certainly progress from the first quarter because that was awful,” head coach Greg Collins said postgame. “In the first quarter, it didn’t look like we guarded anybody…We weren’t really locked in that first quarter but we got better in the second quarter and then we got a lot better in the third and the fourth quarter defensively just making sure we were doing what we were supposed to do as a team.”

The Lady Toppers were led by redshirt junior forward Dee Givens and redshirt junior guard Alexis Brewer. Givens posted 22 points, while Brewer scored 19. Brewer tied for the team-leads in rebounds and assists with six and four, respectively. The duo also combined for all seven of WKU’s made 3-pointers in the contest.

After going 8 for 8 from the foul line in today’s contest, Givens has made 36 consecutive free throws. The NCAA Division I women’s basketball record for consecutive free throws in a season is 70. Givens is 34 makes away from tying the record, which was set by Bowling Green State University’s Lauren Prochaska in 2010.

BU took an early 2-0 lead after stealing a WKU pass and laying it in at the other end. The Knights and Lady Toppers traded buckets early, with both Brewer and Givens hitting 3-pointers for WKU. After a 6-0 WKU run, the Lady Toppers extending their advantage to five points. BU ended that run with a 3-pointer of its own and both teams began trading makes once again.

After hitting a jumper at the 5:13 mark, the Knights were held scoreless until nailing a 3-pointer with 1:56 remaining. During that stretch, WKU enjoyed another 6-0 run. Still, BU refused to go away. Despite making 5-of-5 attempts from the field to end the opening period, WKU only lead BU 24-18 after ten minutes.

BU continued to hang around, cutting WKU’s lead to only four points at the 7:19 mark. The Lady Toppers and Knights traded buckets, keeping the BU deficit around four over the next few minutes. After an extended scoreless stretch for both teams, Brewer sank a 3-pointer to put WKU back in front by seven, 35-28.

Brewer’s shot kicked off what turned into a crucial stretch for the Lady Toppers. WKU ended the half on a 14-1 run, holding BU to zero field goals in the last 5:27 of the second period. During that same stretch, the Lady Toppers also forced four turnovers.

After the game, Givens spoke about what changed for the Lady Toppers after Collins called a timeout with 7:19 left to play in the second quarter.

“I think on defense we locked in more because we kind of, you know, got in trouble when he called a timeout,” Givens said. “So, I think that got everybody’s attention so we rebounded, played defense and tried to get a lot of transition points.”

BU began the third quarter trailing the Lady Toppers 46-29. Though the Knights did not stop scoring, neither did WKU. The Lady Toppers opened up multiple scoring runs early, but they were not enough to silence BU’s offense. The Knights pulled within 20 points thanks to a 9-0 run and three scoreless minutes from WKU late in the period.

Brewer broke both BU’s run and WKU’s drought with a 3-pointer at the 1:01 mark. Brewer also sank a pair of free throws, leading the Lady Toppers to a single-handed 5-0 run to finish the quarter.

WKU began the fourth and final period leading BU 71-46. The Lady Toppers continued to extend their advantage throughout the fourth quarter thanks to a standout performance from freshman forward Meral Abdelgawad. Abdelgawad added 10 points, converting two different three-point plays late in the frame.

WKU also held the Knights scoreless for long stretches, as the Knights failed to convert a field goal during the last 3:36 of the contest. The Lady Toppers outscored BU 24-11 in the final 10 minutes, coasting to a 38-point victory.

The Lady Toppers trailed the Knights in only one statistical category: bench points. BU got 22 points from its reserves, compared to 16 for WKU. BU’s scoring was extremely balanced, as nine different players scored. Junior guard Katie Downey, the Knights’ only double-digit scorer, lead the way with 10 points for BU.

BU’s record will be not affected by its loss this afternoon. Though the game counted for the Lady Toppers’ record, but the matchup counted as an exhibition for the Knights. Collins said the Division II school agreed to play at WKU due to long gaps in each of the teams’ respective schedules.

Following the win, the Lady Toppers will not play again for eight days. WKU’s next contest will be a home matchup with Ball State (2-7). Last season, the Cardinals defeated the Lady Toppers on the road 93-81. WKU will look to tie BSU 4-4 in the all-time series Dec. 16 at 5 p.m. in Diddle Arena.

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