Lady Toppers close road trip with win over LA Tech

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

WKU is heading back to Bowling Green with three more wins than it had when it left following a 75-63 road win over Louisiana Tech.

Winning at Marshall and North Texas in the two games prior, WKU (16-5, 7-1 Conference USA) has now won four straight games and improved to 3-1 in road league games this season, with its only loss coming on Jan. 13 at Alabama-Birmingham. With their victory Sunday, the Lady Toppers remain atop the C-USA standings with a half-game lead.

“I just told the team in the locker room that we grew up this weekend,” WKU coach Michelle Clark-Heard said in her postgame radio interview. “Different people stepped up and that’s what team basketball is all about. Different people stepped up at different times. Look at Dee Givens’ line – she’s really playing well for us.”

Tashia Brown led WKU with 26 points, while Ivy Brown finished with 14 points and nine rebounds. Givens added 14 points, and Sidnee Bopp tallied nine. The Lady Toppers shot 45 percent from the field on the day and forced LA Tech (13-8, 4-4 C-USA) into 25 turnovers.

Kierra Anthony carried the Lady Techsters with 18 points, who were dealt just their second home loss of the year.

“I said in the pregame show that Kierra Anthony is a great kid. She made some big shots, and we gambled a little bit on our defense,” Clark-Heard said. “I was just proud of our kids for being able to execute the things that we needed to. This was a big team win.”

WKU started a bit rough, but it quickly turned things around and stole all of LA Tech’s momentum.

LA Tech jumped out to a 7-1 lead, but WKU responded with a 16-4 run to go up 17-11 at the 4:05 mark of the first quarter. A jumper by Givens then made it 19-11 with just under three minutes left in the period.

Raneem Elgedawy’s layup off an assist by Tashia put WKU up 21-14 after one. At that point, Ivy had five points and six rebounds, while Givens had also scored five.

LA Tech opened the second with a quick 7-1 run to cut the Lady Toppers’ lead to 22-21 at the 8:25 mark. Bopp’s 3-pointer put WKU up four at 25-21, and then Bopp hit Givens, who knocked down another jumper to make it 27-23.

Four straight points from Tashia – and a 6-0 run overall – pushed the Lady Toppers’ advantage to 31-23 with 5:18 remaining in the quarter. WKU then took its largest lead of the game at 34-23 after Terri Smith checked in and immediately knocked down a 3-pointer.

WKU’s advantage grew to 41-27 with 1:39 left in the opening half, and it was up 42-29 at halftime. Tashia was up to 14 points at the break, while Ivy and Givens each had seven.

The Lady Toppers shot 51.6 percent from the field in the half and forced LA Tech into 14 turnovers, 11 coming in the second quarter.

WKU continued playing at a high level in the second half, but LA Tech wasn’t going away.

“We just had to get active,” Clark-Heard said. “It all goes back to following the scout and doing the things that we needed to do for us to be successful. I can’t say enough how proud I am of them and this trip and how we’ve grown and how different people are stepping up at different times.”

Bopp’s second 3-pointer of the contest pushed the Lady Toppers’ lead to 50-34 at the 6:12 mark of the third quarter, but LA Tech answered and trimmed its deficit to single digits at 54-47 with 1:56 left in the period.

The Lady Techsters got within five at 56-51, but Tashia scored to end WKU’s long scoring drought. Despite being outscored 22-14 in the quarter, the Lady Toppers held a slim 56-51 lead entering the fourth.

LA Tech cut it to 56-53, but Kayla Smith scored inside to put WKU back up five. Tashia followed with four straight to push the Lady Toppers’ lead to nine, and then Givens’ 3-pointer made it 65-53 with just over five minutes left.

“You still have your constant two,” Clark-Heard said. “Tashia and Ivy have led this team and continued to show up and do everything they need to for us to be the best we can be.”

WKU was able to maintain a lead from there on out and earned a hard-fought victory.

“What I’m really proud of is that they were different games, but some similar,” said Clark-Heard of the 3-0 road swing. “We had a big lead, get the lead cut, then we come back – and that’s the growth part. Making right decisions at the right time. It just says a lot about how the unity of the team is growing. I think our chemistry has really gotten better and better.”

The Lady Toppers return to action on Saturday at 2 p.m. against Florida Atlantic in Diddle Arena.

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