Givens leads charge in Lady Toppers’ win over ETSU

Redshirt junior guard Dee Givens drives the lane on a fastbreak during WKU’s 104-74 win over West Virginia State Thursday. Givens scored a game-high 27 points. 

Drake Kizer

The WKU women’s basketball team kept East Tennessee State at bay thanks to a high-scoring first quarter on Friday afternoon.

The Lady Toppers (2-5) cruised to an 82-68 victory over the Buccaneers (0-6) on the second day of the Vancouver Showcase. WKU’s lead was trimmed to as little as six points early in the fourth quarter, but the Lady Toppers continued to roll offensively down the stretch, shooting 43.3 percent from the floor. For the first time all season, WKU outrebounded an opponent, winning the battle on the glass over ETSU 44-34.

Despite making strides in other areas, the Lady Toppers were cold as ice from beyond the arc, making only of 3-of-17 attempts from the 3-point line. Though WKU also won the turnover battle 21-18, the Buccaneers nearly sank the Lady Toppers in the final 10 minutes thanks to overall carelessness by WKU ball-handlers.

For the fourth straight game, the Lady Toppers were led by redshirt junior forward Dee Givens and sophomore forward Raneem Elgedawy. Elgedawy posted her first double-double of the year, tallying 17 points and 11 rebounds. Givens made a layup with 0:29 remaining in the contest to reach 25 points, which established a new-career high.

After allowing ETSU to score the game’s opening bucket, the Lady Toppers got to work quickly. Following a 4-4 tie at the 8:23 mark, WKU finished the remainder of the quarter on a 19-6 run. ETSU turned the ball over 10 times, which translated to 14 WKU points. WKU also held the Buccaneers scoreless for minutes at a time throughout the opening period, finishing the game’s first ten minutes leading ETSU 23-10.

The second quarter opened with multiple missed shots and turnovers from both teams. ETSU made its first and only 3-pointer of the entire game to bring the score to 28-15 midway through the period.

From that point, WKU ran into some difficulties. The Lady Toppers got into foul trouble, as both redshirt sophomore forward Arame Niang and redshirt junior guard Alexis Brewer racked up three fouls. WKU also posted multiple extended scoring droughts and allowed ETSU to close the first half on a 10-2 run.

The Buccaneers outscored WKU 18-17 in the second frame, but the Lady Toppers went into the locker room for halftime still leading the Buccaneers 40-28. WKU maintained an advantage thanks in no small part to an offensive explosion from freshman forward Meral Abdelgawad. Abdelgawad posted 14 of her 16 points in the first 20 minutes of play.

Senior forward Jae’Lisa Allen was another bright spot for WKU, as she posted six points in the second quarter for the Lady Toppers. Allen finished with eight points in only eight minutes, doubling her previous career-high of four points.

Brewer opened the second half with her only two points of the day. That bucket served as kindling for a fiery offensive performance that would extend to both teams early in the third quarter. The Lady Toppers and Buccaneers combined for 20 points in the first 2:48 of the period, bringing the score to 52-36.

After beginning the third quarter with four straight layups, WKU could not buy a bucket midway through the frame. ETSU used the foul line to its advantage, mounting a 9-0 run. Givens took matters into her own hands, sinking a pair of 3-pointers and converting two free-throw attempts to establish a single-handed 8-0 run for the Lady Toppers. The Buccaneers kept battling, finishing the quarter trailing 64-52.

ETSU came out firing in the fourth, sinking three straight layups to trim WKU’s lead to only six points at the 7:53 mark. Collins called for a timeout at that point, hoping to help the Lady Toppers regroup. His strategy worked, as WKU outscored ETSU 18-10 during the game’s final stretch.

Neither team had much offensive success in the final 10 minutes, as both the Lady Toppers and the Buccaneers were both held scoreless from the field for long stretches. ETSU started intentionally fouling WKU late in the frame to gain some extra possessions. But the Lady Toppers foiled that tactic, making 12-of-18 free throw attempts in the fourth quarter on their way to a 14-point victory.

Though the Lady Toppers finished with a 50-48 advantage in the paint, ETSU still had a relatively easy day against WKU inside. WKU also allowed the Buccaneers to shoot 44.8 percent from the field. Sophomore guard Erica Haynes-Overton lead the way for ETSU with 15 points on the day.

This game was the second of three in three days for the Lady Toppers at the Vancouver Showcase. Following the win in its consolation game, WKU will meet Gonzaga in the fifth-place game Saturday afternoon at 3:30 p.m.

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