Lady Toppers fall to Oklahoma despite career night from Givens

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 fell to 0-2 on the season with an 90-83 loss against Oklahoma Friday night.

After a low-scoring first half, both offenses exploded in the second half, resulting in a combined 110 points between the two squads. The Lady Toppers fought hard until the end, but they ultimately fell just short of their first regular season victory.

“I felt like on offense we were being just a little more selfish instead of being unselfish,” head coach Greg Collins said in a postgame press release. “Unfortunately, right now our offense affects our defense…We played much better defense in the second half but I think that was the key. In the second half we were able to get out and run a little bit, which was what we were trying to do.”

The Lady Toppers were once again led by redshirt junior forward Dee Givens, who scored a career-high 21 points and grabbed seven rebounds. Freshman guard Meral Abdelgawad bounced back from her struggles in the season-opener against Louisville, leading WKU in rebounds and assists with nine and five, respectively. Abdelgawad also had 17 points.

The Lady Toppers started the contest strong, leading the Sooners 7-4 at one point in the first period. OU soon came storming back, as the Sooners went on an 11-0 run. WKU sent OU to the foul line numerous times, but the Sooners only hit 4-of-10 attempts from the charity stripe. A 3-pointer from redshirt junior guard Alexis Brewer late in the period helped the Lady Toppers end the opening quarter trailing 16-20.

Freshman center Kallie Searcy started off the second period by scoring not only her first career bucket, but also her only two points on the night. OU then hit back-to-back 3-pointers, which kickstarted what turned into a 16-0 run for the Sooners. During that stretch, WKU failed to score a point for over six minutes of clock time.

WKU shot a lowly 29 percent from the floor during the first half. Despite severe offensive struggles, the Lady Toppers went into the locker room for halftime only trailing the Sooners 38-25.

Sophomore guard Shaina Pellington scored 12 points in the first half, which led the way for the Sooners. Freshman forward Madi Williams grabbed 12 rebounds in the first 20 minutes of her collegiate career for OU. Williams finished the night with 15 points and 15 rebounds.

OU flexed its muscles inside during the first half, out-rebounding the Lady Toppers 33-24. However, despite their disadvantage on the glass, WKU only allowed the Sooners to score five second-chance points.

Though 13 turnovers stung WKU in the first half, the debut of redshirt sophomore forward Arame Niang was a bright spot. Niang, who has been battling an injury throughout the preseason, checked into the game late in the second period and scored her first career points as a Lady Topper. Niang finished the night with 10 points and three rebounds.

After both OU and WKU traded buckets to begin the third period, sophomore forward Raneem Elgedawy used an and-one to cut WKU’s deficit down to 10. The Lady Toppers proceeded to go on yet another extended scoring drought, committing five turnovers in the process. Despite amassing a 17-point advantage, OU was not able to force WKU into submission. The Lady Toppers trailed by single digits once again after a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from Abdelgawad to end the period.

The fourth quarter can be defined in one phrase: 3-point shootout. OU shot 6-of-8 from deep, while WKU shot 5-of-10. Givens hit back-to-back 3-pointers to cut WKU’s deficit to as low as seven points, but OU used three straight daggers from deep to engineer a 9-0 run in less than a minute.

The Sooners’ lead swelled throughout the fourth, but the Lady Toppers managed to continue whittling down their deficit. The Lady Toppers got within seven, but it was ultimately too late, as WKU fell to the Sooners by that margin. OU finished the game shooting 42 percent from both the floor and the 3-point line.

The Lady Toppers caused 26 Oklahoma turnovers, which turned into 20 points for WKU. WKU also had a noticeable advantage inside, outscoring OU 44-30 in the paint. However, Pellington’s 33 points, which established a new career-best, were simply insurmountable. WKU shot 43 percent from the field and 38 percent from 3-point range. The Lady Toppers also made 86 percent of their foul shots for the game.

The Lady Toppers will return to Diddle Arena next Tuesday for their third regular season contest against No. 13 Iowa. The Hawkeyes, WKU’s third consecutive Power 5 opponent, earned a 104-97 overtime victory at home over the Lady Toppers a year ago.

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