Lady Toppers return home Saturday to host FAU

WKU junior Kayla Smith (32) shoots a deep three pointer during WKU’s game vs. Notre Dame on Nov 14, 2017 in E.A. Diddle Arena. The Lady Toppers lost 78-65.

Tyler Mansfield

After playing its last three games on the road, the WKU women’s basketball team returns home Saturday to host Florida Atlantic at 2 p.m. in Diddle Arena.

The Lady Toppers (16-5, 7-1 Conference USA) won at Marshall, North Texas and most recently at Louisiana Tech to record a perfect 3-0 trip. WKU has won four straight games since losing at Alabama-Birmingham on Jan. 13 and is tied with Rice atop the C-USA standings 

“I think we’re playing really tough and playing together,” WKU senior forward Ivy Brown said Friday. “In both the North Texas and LA Tech game, they made runs and we held our composure and we’ve really grown a lot over the last three games.”

Florida Atlantic (10-8, 4-3) travels to Bowling Green after losing 90-57 at UAB on Jan. 27. The Owls, who currently sit in fifth place in the league standings, are led by four players in double figures.

Sasha Cedeno leads the charge for FAU with 17.9 points and 8.1 rebounds per game, while Danneal Ford is averaging 12.8 points, 5.1 rebounds and 4.1 assists. Tyana Robinson averages 11.5 points and Ra’Kyra Gabriel is producing 10.5 points and 7.7 boards per night.

“I think the way they’ve been competing and the way that they can score and the way they play is definitely scary,” WKU coach Michelle Clark-Heard said. “They’re averaging over 72, 73 points per game and everybody has a green light. They can shoot the three, they can take it to the basket. They score a ton in transition.”

FAU, currently sitting at No. 179 in the latest NCAA RPI, is led by an offense that is scoring 72.4 PPG and winning the scoring margin over its opponents by +4.1.

WKU, which has the best RPI in C-USA at No. 46, continues to be led by the senior duo of Ivy and Tashia Brown. While Tashia is averaging 23.1 PPG to lead all of C-USA, Ivy is scoring 16.3 to go along with 9.7 RPG.

“(Tashia) and Ivy have worked really hard to help this program get to where we’re at right now,” Clark-Heard said. “They’re just stepping up to the plate and we’re just really excited as a staff. When you’re able to be the leading scorer in the conference and continue day-in and day-out to do the things you need to help your team win, that speaks for itself.”

Alongside the Browns, a trio of underclassmen have also been performing at a high level for the Lady Toppers. Redshirt sophomore guard Dee Givens is averaging 9.1 PPG, and freshman forward Raneem Elgedawy is right behind Givens with 9.0 PPG and 7.8 RPG. Sophomore guard Whitney Creech is currently scoring 7.7 per outing.

“I think we still have to keep remembering that we’re a young team – and we talk about that to them,” said Clark-Heard of the maturity of her underclassmen. “We’re grown up now and we’ve been in a lot of different situations. Again, I go back to putting the non-conference schedule together, and I think it’s really paying off for us.”

WKU and Florida Atlantic have met 18 times since the 2006-07 season when both were members of the Sun Belt Conference, and WKU holds a 16-2 lead in the series. The Lady Toppers have won each of the last seven contests over the Owls.

Following Saturday’s game, WKU will host Old Dominion on Thursday at 5:30 p.m.

Sports Reporter Tyler Mansfield can be reached at 270-935-0007 and [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @_TylerMansfield.