WKU beats Toledo, goes 2-0 in West Palm Invitational

Senior Tashia Brown of Lake Park, Ga. competes with a member of the WKU men’s basketball team during Hilltopper Hysteria, on Friday, Oct. 13.

Tyler Mansfield

In recent years, in-season tournaments have been something the WKU women’s basketball team have excelled in.

After opening the season in the Hawkeye Challenge at Iowa and winning 79-76 over No. 16 ranked Missouri and suffering a tough overtime loss to Iowa, WKU then won the Georgia State Thanksgiving Classic in November with wins over Mercer and Georgia State.

Now, playing in the West Palm Invitational in West Palm Beach, Florida this weekend, the Lady Toppers (8-3) recorded a 66-58 victory over Stetson on Saturday before beating Toledo 70-56 on Sunday to close their play in the tournament. WKU has now won seven straight games with two nonconference contests remaining.

“In order to beat a great team – Toledo is a really, really good team – we had to stay locked in for 40 minutes,” WKU head coach Michelle Clark-Heard said in her postgame radio interview. “Even though we didn’t play as great in that first period, we were locked in the whole game.”

Tashia Brown scored a game-high 29 points – including 16 in the third quarter to tie a program record – and grabbed nine rebounds. Additionally, Ivy Brown finished with a double-double – her sixth in the last seven games – of 14 points and 10 rebounds while Raneem Elgedawy added 10 and 6.

Toledo jumped out to a 5-0 start before Tashia Brown drove inside and made a layup to cut WKU’s deficit to 5-2 at the 8:33 mark of the first quarter. The Lady Toppers then used a 5-2 run of their own to tie it the game at 7-7 with 4:57 remaining in the period.

Trailing 12-10 after Brown split a pair of free throws, Toledo closed the quarter on a 10-4 run to lead 22-14 after 10 minutes of action. After one, Tashia, Ivy and Elgedawy each had four points for WKU.

“We just had to rotate a little faster,” Clark-Heard said. “We just talked about what we needed to do as a whole to rotate better. Then, I had to change up defenses and the way we played. We had to play a little bit faster than we’ve done all year with some of the rotations.”

The Lady Toppers regrouped in the second quarter and outscored Toledo 23-10 to take a five-point advantage of 37-32 into the locker room at halftime.

After cutting its deficit to 24-23 at the 6:16 mark, Sidnee Bopp nailed back-to-back three pointers to put WKU up 29-25 and help them ultimately lead at intermission. After two quarters, Tashia had 11 points while Ivy had tallied eight and six rebounds.

“That was a quick turnaround and for our players to adjust and adapt to what we had to do to win the game,” Clark-Heard said. “We changed up defenses and did some things that we hadn’t been doing and, as a coach, that’s the fun part.”

WKU built a 10-point advantage of 46-36 with 4:47 remaining in the third as Tashia had already scored seven points in the quarter and was up to 18 on the day. Behind Brown’s 16 points in the period – which tied Ivy’s record she set last week at Southern Illinois – the Lady Toppers had a 55-45 lead entering the fourth.

“I’m just really proud of different people stepping up at different time,” said Clark-Heard. “Of course, there in the third quarter Tashia was huge. Then we got down the stretch and Ivy made some big plays. Raneem had a great game. Different people just really stepped up – and that’s what I just told them in the locker room.”

In the final quarter, WKU went up 57-49 and kept Toledo from ever getting closer than nine points as it recorded another win.

The Lady Toppers return to action on Thursday with a trip to Muncie, Indiana to take on Ball State. Tipoff is scheduled for 6 p.m.

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