Lady Toppers bounce back in Education Day game

WKU senior forward Tashia Brown (10) wrestles for the ball with an opposing player during their game against Notre Dame on Tuesday Nov 14, 2017 in EA Diddle Arena. The Lady Toppers lost 78-65.

Tyler Mansfield

In their annual “Spread the Red Education Day” game on Thursday morning against Texas-San Antonio, WKU recorded a 73-38 win to improve to a perfect 7-0 in Education Day tilts. 

Behind 19 points from Ivy Brown, 17 from Tashia Brown, Dee Givens’ 15 points and a double-double performance (13 points, 14 rebounds) by Raneem Elgedawy, 3,887 kids from both Bowling Green City and Warren County Public Schools were able to witness a WKU (13-5 overall, 4-1 Conference USA) win.

Both school districts had been closed due to snow, so WKU wasn’t sure whether or not the students would be able to attend the game. But when BG City Schools announced that they’d be in session on Thursday, it meant that a large sum of kids would be in Diddle Arena.

“I was really excited last night when I got the tweet that they were definitely going to be here,” WKU coach Michelle Clark-Heard said. “It just means a lot. I think the most important thing is that this is what’s it’s all about. Just really excited about that energy and opportunity for us to play in front of them.”

WKU forced UTSA into 25 turnovers and turned those takeaways into 19 points on the other end of the court. Additionally, the Lady Toppers held the Roadrunners (3-14, 1-4) to 20 percent shooting from the field.

Marie Benson led UTSA, which dropped to 0-9 in road games this season, with nine points.

“We really focused on that tonight,” Ivy Brown said of WKU’s defensive performance. “We gave up 22 (points) in the first half and I told the girls as we went out for the second half that we wanted to hold them to like 45. So, we set a goal and we did that. I’m really proud of us to bounce back like that.”

The Lady Toppers led 19-10 after the opening quarter and 36-22 at halftime. Their advantage then grew to 52-31 at the end of three quarters before outscoring UTSA 21-7 in the fourth.

The two sides exchanged baskets over the first four minutes, as WKU and UTSA were tied at 6-6 at the 6:20 mark of the first quarter. The Lady Toppers took their first lead of the game on a basket by Ivy Brown with just under six minutes remaining in the period.

WKU used an 8-0 run to take a 12-6 lead with 4:37 left in the first. A 3-pointer by Ivy Brown then moved the Lady Toppers’ run to 11-0 and put them up 15-6 at the 4:14 mark, as Brown was shooting 4-of-4 from the field and already had nine points.

Another score by Ivy gave WKU a 19-10 advantage after one. She scored 11 of the Lady Toppers’ 19 points in the opening quarter.

UTSA cut its deficit to 20-14, but just before Givens splashed a 3-pointer from the left wing to put WKU back up nine at the 8:05 mark of the second. Tashia Brown then scored six straight to push the Lady Toppers’ advantage to 29-14.

WKU used its defense to force back-to-back UTSA turnovers and built a 33-16 lead in the process. A basket by Sherry Porter at the 2:04 mark off an assist from Nichel Tampa then made it 35-16 and gave Western its largest advantage of the afternoon.

“It was huge for us,” said Ivy Brown said of the Lady Toppers’ defensive intensity. “We always talk about letting our defense dictate our offense instead of the other way around. I think we were a lot more aggressive when we switched up and did some things that we needed to work on. We just played aggressive – and that led to our offense.”

Behind 22 combined points from Ivy and Tashia, the Lady Toppers led 36-22 at halftime. WKU shot 13-of-13 from the field in the first half, while UTSA went 8-of-26. Additionally, the Lady Toppers forced the Roadrunners into 14 turnovers.

WKU continued to carry the momentum throughout the second half.

“I talked about our energy and effort at halftime,” Clark-Heard said. “We wanted to take it up a notch and be able to do the things that we had talked about so we could continue getting better. I really thought that we dictated the tempo in the second half. I was really proud of how we adjusted.”

Elgedawy’s basket off a drive to the lane put WKU up 40-23 at the 6:50 mark of the third quarter. A 3-pointer by Givens with just under four minutes remaining in the period pushed the Lady Toppers’ lead to 20 at 47-27.

“I just try to get in the gym every day and just work on my shot and just try to get a quicker release on my three, because sometimes I get it off too slow,” Elgedawy said. “In practice I’ve been really working on my defense and letting the offense come to me. Focusing on defense more has really helped me.”

Leading 52-31 entering the fourth, WKU was able to cruise through the final quarter and put last Saturday’s loss at Alabama-Birmingham behind it.

The Lady Toppers now hit the road for three games, beginning Sunday at Marshall. Tipoff is scheduled for Noon CT in the Cam Henderson Center in Huntington, West Virginia.

“We have to go on the road now for three straight,” Clark-Heard said. “We’ve been very fortunate to be home. (Marshall) shoots threes, they have Shayna Gore, who’s unbelievable. She can score, shoot the three, get to the basket and they have (Talequia) Hamilton – their big kid on the inside – who always gives us problems.

“It’s gonna be a tough environment for us. We’ll have to be ready to go.”

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