Givens shines in Lady Toppers’ exhibition win

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

WKU women’s basketball completed its first and only exhibition contest with a 104-74 win over West Virginia State Thursday thanks to a stifling defensive performance and a big scoring night from redshirt junior Dee Givens.

Givens scored 27 points in only 20 minutes of action. Six WKU players scored double digit points, and every player that dressed for WKU scored at least two points. The Lady Toppers forced 30 turnovers. 

“I mentioned earlier, this isn’t NASCAR, this isn’t the Daytona 500 coming up, this is NCAA basketball and March isn’t here yet,” head coach Greg Collins said after the game. “So as long as we’re continuing to grow and get better together and as a team, we’ll be okay in March.”

WVSU was able to stick with the Lady Toppers during the first quarter thanks to the 3-point line, as four different Yellow Jackets hit from behind the arc. However, WKU pulled away late in the first period thanks to 12 WVSU turnovers, which translated to 17 Lady Topper points.

WVSU kept the game relatively close in the first quarter thanks to nine points from redshirt freshman forward Chloe Cheresne and eight points from junior guard Jordan Miller. The Yellow Jackets also shot 43.3 percent from the field during the first two quarters. Sophomore guard Amari Grace finished the game with 20 points, which lead all WVSU scorers.

The Lady Toppers began the second quarter leading 33-20, but really pulled away late, finishing on a 12-2 run during the last three minutes of the period. WKU also dominated in the paint, outscoring WVSU 30-12 inside. WKU went into the locker room leading 57-35.

Givens led the Lady Toppers with 24 points in the first half. Givens and fellow redshirt junior guard Alexis Brewer both grabbed three rebounds. Junior guard Whitney Creech and sophomore guard Sherry Porter tied for the team lead in assists with four each at the half.

“I just went out there and just tried to play hard like Coach Collins says, just give my all and just do whatever for the team,” Givens said. 

WKU continued to distance itself during the third quarter, as Brewer hit 3-pointers on two straight possessions to give the Lady Toppers a 72-45 advantage at one point. The Lady Toppers as a whole used the 3-point line to their advantage, shooting 5-6 from distance during the third period.

After only outscoring WVSU 25-20 in the third quarter, freshman forward Meral Abdelgawad began the fourth quarter on a singlehanded 9-0 run. Abdelgawad was the only Lady Toppers starter to play during the majority of the second half, but she made the most of her minutes, adding 12 points, five rebounds, and four assists to her stat line.

Collins said he made the decision to leave Abdelgawad in the game so she could gain experience and get adjusted to playing basketball outside of Egypt, her home country.

“I’ve coached a handful of [international players] and they’ve all been great but the one thing they had in common is there’s an adjustment period to playing American-style basketball,” Collins said. “And so, you can’t learn that by watching. You’ve got to get out there and do it, you’ve got to make those mistakes … and you’ve got to get past that and then you get to the basketball player that you really are.”

The Lady Toppers closed the game by making five of their last seven shots from the field to cap off a 30-point victory. WKU shot 60.6 percent from the field for the game and made 75 percent of their free throws.

WKU women’s basketball will begin the regular season on Tuesday evening against No. 5 Louisville. The Lady Toppers hold a 25-20 advantage in the all-time series.

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