Even with more than 6,000 screaming elementary students in the stands, it took the Lady Toppers a while to get going.
After putting up just 19 points in the first half, the Lady Toppers (9-13, 6-4 Sun Belt Conference) scored 37 second-half points to defeat South Alabama 56-41 on WKU’s “Spread the Red Education Day.”
“We got off to a slow start, but we were able to hold them down offensively in the first half,” Head Coach Mary Taylor Cowles said. “We really did a great job the whole game defending the 3-point line.”
Wednesday’s crowd was announced as 7,094. It was the largest crowd to see a Lady Toppers game since Diddle Arena was renovated in 2002 and was the fourth largest crowd ever at a Lady Toppers game.
Senior forward Arnika Brown said it was a fun experience, even if it meant a rocky start for both teams.
“My nerves were just going,” she said. “That’s the first time we’ve ever played in front of that many people — just a lot of screaming kids. But it was fun.”
The score was just 19-13 at halftime, and both teams were shooting 25 percent or lower from the field. But WKU shot 53.8 percent in the second half while holding South Alabama (13-9, 5-5 SBC) to just 30.8 percent.
“I was glad we could hold them to just 13 points at the half,” Cowles said. “We gave up 10 offensive rebounds and were tied at halftime with them at 24. We talked about doing a better job rebounding, and we out-rebounded them by two.”
It was South Alabama’s sixth road loss of the season, which left Coach Rick Petri less than pleased.
“We’re a joke on the road,” he said. “We’re a complete joke. It’s ridiculous. The basket is 10 feet tall. It’s got a glass backboard. It’s got an orange rim. And at home, boy, it goes in all the time. But on the road, we don’t even know what a basket looks like.”
The win separates WKU from South Alabama for second in the Sun Belt’s East division and preserves their hope of a first-round bye in the Sun Belt Tournament.
The Lady Toppers will next play Louisiana-Monroe at Diddle Arena at 1 p.m. Saturday.