Lady Toppers look to continue bounce back prior to C-USA play

Lady Topper basketball coach Greg Collins watches his team take on Louisville on Nov. 6. WKU lost 102-80. 

Drake Kizer

WKU women’s basketball is starting to bounce back from a rough start that included seven games against NCAA Tournament teams, as the Lady Toppers are now 4-6 after starting the year 0-4.

Now 10 games into the season, only four non-conference games remain for WKU. First-year head coach Greg Collins will look to guide his team to a record of .500 or better prior to its Conference USA opener, which is now less than a month away.

WKU traveled to Little Rock, Arkansas, for a matchup with the Trojans (2-5) on Saturday. The Lady Toppers out-rebounded their opponent for the second straight game, 38-28. WKU used the foul line to its advantage, converting 25 of 29 attempts from the stripe. It was a fight until the end, but the Lady Toppers earned their first true road win of the season 68-56.

With the win over UALR, WKU improved to 1-6 against 2018 NCAA Tournament teams.

“We need some more players to take pride in other areas of the game than just scoring,” Collins said prior to the Lady Toppers’ trip to the Jack Stephens Center.

Sophomore Raneem Elgedawy heard her coach loud and clear, grabbing 21 rebounds against the Trojans. Elgedawy also added 17 points, tallying her second double-double of the season.

Elgedawy’s transcendent performance came on the heels of an injury she sustained on Nov. 27. Collins said after the Morgan State game that Elgedawy had taken an errant elbow to the face in practice. The blow resulted in three stitches under one of Elgedawy’s eyes.

WKU’s next four contests will reveal a lot about where the Lady Toppers should expect to be as a team when they welcome C-USA foe Charlotte to Diddle Arena on Jan. 3.

The Lady Toppers will be in action on Saturday for a home matchup with Division II opponent Bellarmine (5-1). The two teams have not met since 1979, when WKU defeated BU 76-44 in Diddle Arena.

Eight days later, WKU will welcome Ball State (2-6) to Bowling Green. The Lady Toppers fell to the Cardinals 93-81 on the road a season ago. WKU and BSU last met in Diddle Arena two years ago, with WKU winning 68-61. If the Lady Toppers can avenge last year’s defeat on Dec. 16, WKU will tie the Cardinals in the all-time series.

No. 1 Notre Dame (8-0) will host the Lady Toppers in South Bend, Indiana, on Dec. 19. Last season, WKU tested ND in Diddle Arena, with the Fighting Irish claiming a 78-65 victory over the Lady Toppers. ND finished 2018 as the National Champions and they have continued their dominance so far this season.

The Fighting Irish placed first in the Vancouver Showcase, while WKU finished sixth out of the tournament’s eight-team field.

Against three common opponents (No. 9 Oregon State, No. 14 Iowa State, Gonzaga), ND is averaging 92.3 points per game, while the Lady Toppers are only scoring 60.6. The Fighting Irish will be the fourth top 15 opponent WKU has faced this season.

WKU will wrap up their out-of-conference slate with a matchup against Division II opponent Union (Tennessee) on Dec. 29. The Lady Bulldogs (7-0) have not faced the Lady Toppers since 1983, when they fell to WKU 64-58 in Diddle Arena. WKU leads the all-time series 2-0.

At best, WKU could enter C-USA play with a 8-6 record. At worst, WKU could meet the 49ers with a 4-10 record. Collins and the Lady Toppers will begin their quest against BU in Diddle Arena at 2 p.m. Saturday.

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