WKU returns home to play Morgan State

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

It’s been a difficult opening stretch for the WKU women’s basketball team that now sits at 2-6 after playing four games in five days. The Lady Toppers will be in action once again on Wednesday for a home matchup with Morgan State.

WKU has never met MSU (1-6) on the hardwood. This year, MSU is 0-5 in games played away from its home arena, Hill Field House. In those contests, the Bears have given up 68.8 points per game and have been outscored by their opponents 344-235.

The Lady Toppers will have three full days of rest prior to their matchup with MSU, an advantage the team will not take lightly following its recent slate.

WKU kicked off its stretch of four games in five days against Southern Illinois (3-3) on Nov. 20.

The Lady Toppers used the friendly confines of Diddle Arena to their advantage, leading the Salukis for 39:29 of clock time. Despite surrendering much of its 19-point halftime advantage down the stretch, WKU still came out on top 83-76.

WKU’s victory over SIU was the first regular-season win for head coach Greg Collins.

“In some ways, it’s better to get this type of win than it is to get a win had we continued and scored 102 points to 67,” Collins said. “Would I have liked for us to play better down the stretch? Absolutely. But it’s good that we had a close ballgame and found a way to win, and we can take some of those lessons and move on to the next game.”

Just two days later, the Lady Toppers traveled about 2,000 miles to Vancouver, Canada, to play in the inaugural Vancouver Showcase. The eight-team tournament marked WKU’s first time playing outside the United States since the 2013-14 season.

“It’s still a big challenge for us,” Collins said about WKU’s trip to Vancouver. “But that’s how we learn, that’s how we’re going to get better. I tell the players … we’re practicing and working so that when we play a schedule like this, we’re more competitive with these teams, and we have opportunities to win against these teams.”

WKU’s first opponent in Vancouver was No. 9 Oregon State (5-1). The Lady Toppers held the Beavers to only 20 percent shooting from beyond the arc and forced 13 turnovers, but it was not enough, as OSU outscored WKU 44-24 in the paint on its way to a 74-60 victory on Thursday.

Following their opening-round loss, the Lady Toppers were matched up with East Tennessee State (0-7) in the consolation bracket. WKU outrebounded an opponent for the first time all season, defeating the Buccaneers on the glass 44-34. WKU sank 12-of-18 free throw attempts in the fourth quarter and overcame ETSU 82-68 on Friday.

On the final day of the Vancouver Showcase, the Lady Toppers faced Gonzaga (6-1) in the fifth-place game. The Bulldogs led WKU for most of the contest thanks to shooting 45.3 percent from the field and 43.8 percent from beyond the arc. The Lady Toppers produced their lowest offensive output of the season in a 76-55 loss on Saturday.

During WKU’s last four contests, redshirt junior forward Dee Givens averaged 19.3 points per game, including a career-high 25 points against ETSU.

During that same period, sophomore forward Raneem Elgedawy averaged 16.2 points per game. Elgedawy recorded her first double-double of the season against the Buccaneers, notching 17 points and grabbing 11 rebounds.

The Lady Toppers will continue to lean on Givens and Elgedawy for stellar performances, especially as Collins looks for a consistent starting lineup. After junior guard Whitney Creech started each of WKU’s first three games, sophomore guard Sherry Porter has started in her place for each of the Lady Toppers’ last five contests.

After eight regular-season games, the Lady Toppers have faced six teams that made the NCAA Tournament in 2018. Three of those six opponents were ranked in the top 15. WKU is winless in those contests, posting an 0-6 record. 

WKU has only six games remaining before Conference USA play begins Jan. 3. The Lady Toppers will seek a victory in the last leg of their non-conference slate against the Bears at 6 p.m. Wednesday in Diddle Arena.

 

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