Creech notches 11 assists as Lady Toppers roll past UTSA in C-USA quarterfinals

WKU Guard Whitney Creech (5) looks to make a pass against UTEP Forward Tija Hawkins (23) during the Lady Toppers 78-50 win in first game of the Conference USA tournament against University of Texas at San Antonio on Thursday March 8, 2018 at The Star in Frisco, Tx. Creech had 4 steals in the Lady Toppers win.

Sam Porter

The quest for a second consecutive Conference USA title got off to a positive start for the WKU women’s basketball team on Thursday afternoon.

Less than two months after defeating University of Texas San-Antonio by 35 points in the regular season, the Lady Toppers nearly replicated that effort when the two teams met in the quarterfinals of the C-USA tournament.

WKU built an early double-digit lead and never looked back en route to a 78-50 victory. Senior forward Ivy Brown scored 23 points and grabbed 11 rebounds to record the game’s only double-double. Freshman forward Raneem Elgedawy scored 19 points in her first C-USA tournament game. Marie Benson scored 22 points for UTSA, but it wasn’t nearly enough as she was the only Roadrunner to break double figures.

“We didn’t have the best week last week, but it says a lot about the resilience of this team the way we came out and played today,” head coach Michelle Clark-Heard said. “I credit my seniors, they really stepped up and got this group together to go back to work. I’m excited to advance and have the chance to play tomorrow.

UTSA kept it close for the first seven minutes, trailing only 11-10 before the Lady Toppers began to pull away. Sophomore guard Whitney Creech capped off a 13-0 run by finding senior forward Ivy Brown at the top of the key for a 3-pointer to make the score 24-10 early in the second quarter. Creech recorded three of her 11 assists during the run to help WKU build an early cushion.

“We did a really good job of running our sets and plays. We found people open and they knocked down shots,” Creech said. “I think I’m just getting more confident in the offense and distributing the ball. Confidence has really been the key right now.”

Just moments later, Creech found Ivy Brown again, this time underneath for an easy layup to push the lead to 30-17. Those two buckets were just a couple highlights of Ivy Brown’s first scoring barrage. The Hodgenville product scored 19 of her 23 points in the first half as WKU built a 45-27 halftime lead.

“It was good to see the ball go in early,” Ivy Brown said. “We played really aggressive on defense and got our hands on a lot of balls early. That really dictated our offense. That’s what we focus on, letting our defense dictate our offense and not the other way around.”

The Lady Toppers would push the lead up to 20 points before putting on the final touches on the Lady Roadrunners. Redshirt sophomore forward Dee Givens would hit back to back layups to ignite a 15-0 run to end the third quarter. The run made the score 70-35 heading into the final period and ultimately put the game out of reach.

With 4:13 to play, Creech’s three-pointer with the shot clock winding down put her in the scoring book. Creech scored just 3 points, but her 11 assists made her accountable for nearly 30 of WKU’s 78 points.

“Whitney is special,” Clark-Heard said. “She’s adjusted to everything we’ve needed of her. When it was time for her to step up and play point, she did it. I think the greatest thing is the chemistry between the seniors and her. She really looks up to them and they really help her. She’s one that always gets in the gym and does what she needs to do. When she talks about her confidence growing, that’s why.”

The Lady Toppers would cruise to a 78-50 victory to boost their overall record to 22-8. The Lady Toppers will continue their quest of a second consecutive C-USA title tomorrow night at 8 p.m. against the winner of Louisiana Tech University and North Texas University.

“Any time you get to the semis its going to be a dog fight,” Clark-Heard said. “Right now it’s just survive and advance for everyone. We’re going to get everyone’s best game and we’re going to have our game plan ready for whoever we have next.”

Reporter Sam Porter can be reached at 270-745-6291 and [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @SammyP14.