The WKU women’s basketball used a dominant second half to roll to a 101-58 win over Union University (Tenn.) in an exhibition game on Thursday at Diddle Arena.
The Lady Toppers led by just seven points after the opening quarter and 39-25 at halftime, but outscored the Lady Bulldogs 72-33 in the second half to win their seventh exhibition tilt under head coach Michelle Clark-Heard.
“I think this was a good way to kind of see where we’re at as a team,” sophomore guard Whitney Creech said. “It was good to see all of the people step up and knock down shots and play defense.”
WKU senior forward Ivy Brown scored 26 points on 10-of-14 shooting while also grabbing 12 rebounds. Freshman center Raneem Elgedawy – in her first game as a Lady Topper – scored 20 points and pulled down 14 boards. Junior guard Whitney Creech finished with 13 points, 7 assists and six rebounds.
It took WKU a little while to get into a rhythm.
After missing their first five shots of the night, the Lady Toppers discovered their offense and took a 13-4 lead with 1:18 left in the opening quarter. WKU forced five turnovers in the first period and scored six points off those takeaways.
“In the first quarter we had a lot of jitters, I think,” Clark-Heard said. “A lot nervousness… kind of looked like we didn’t know what we were doing or where we were supposed to be. I’m really proud of how we picked it up.”
WKU held a 31-21 advantage with 4:50 remaining in the second after a Tashia Brown layup. Just minutes before her basket, she went down on the baseline after a play under the Lady Toppers’ goal and was escorted by Clark-Heard and a trainer to the bench but quickly returned.
Baskets by both Ivy and Tashia Brown in the final minute of the second built WKU a 14-point lead – its largest of the contest – of 39-25 at halftime. At the break, Ivy Brown had 16 points and 10 rebounds while Elgedawy had tallied 8 points and 7 boards.
WKU shot just 49 percent in the first half after going 17-of-35 from the field while the Lady Bulldogs went 10-31 (32 percent). Chelsey Shumpert paced Union with 12 points at the break and went on to finish with 26.
The Lady Toppers really found their groove in the second half.
“I just talked to them about our energy,” Clark-Heard said of her message at halftime. “I don’t think our energy was where we needed it to be in the first half. (Energy) is something we talk about all of the time. It’s still basically a brand-new team besides Tashia and Ivy, so as a coaching staff we have to learn what is going to be good for us.”
WKU raced out to an 8-2 start to open the third quarter, pushing its advantage to 47-27. A basket by Union’s Jada Perkins cut it back to 18, but a pair of Elgedawy free throws put the Lady Toppers back up 20.
Leading 49-29, the Lady Toppers took a 62-36 lead at the 1:54 mark of the quarter on a fastbreak layup by Elgedawy off the right side of the background. The score increased her points total to 14 on the day.
“It’s a lot different than last year. We didn’t really have a back-to-the-basket post, but I think that’s something Raneem can bring to the team,” said Creech of Elgedawy’s style of play. “She is really good at posting and can make good moves and can finish well around the basket.”
Lady Topper freshman Terri Smith checked into the game, immediately recorded a steal and then nailed a three-pointer for her first career score. Following her bucket, Elgedawy scored under the goal just before the buzzer sounded to give WKU a 70-38 lead entering the final quarter.
The Lady Toppers went on to outscore Union 31-20 in the fourth to cruise to the victory.
After Saturday’s tune-up, WKU will now dig into a tough nonconference schedule, beginning with a trip to Iowa City, Iowa for the Hawkeye Challenge. The Lady Toppers will meet Missouri on Nov. 10 at 2:30 p.m. and will face off against either Iowa or Quinnipiac the next day.
“We have a long way to go,” freshman guard Sherry Porter said. “We just have to trust coach and trust the process and just keep playing.”
Women’s basketball beat writer Tyler Mansfield can be reached at (270) 935-0007 and [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @_TylerMansfield.