Collins earns win No. 50, WKU sets program record with 14 three-pointers

WKU+Lady+Hilltoppers%E2%80%99+freshman+guard+Mya+Meredith+%285%29+attempts+a+layup+against+the+Purdue+Boilermakers+in+Diddle+Arena+during+their+opening+conference+match+on+Wednesday+evening%2C+Nov.+10+of+2021.+Western+lost+the+match+79-69.

Arthur H. Trickett-Wile

WKU Lady Hilltoppers’ freshman guard Mya Meredith (5) attempts a layup against the Purdue Boilermakers in Diddle Arena during their opening conference match on Wednesday evening, Nov. 10 of 2021. Western lost the match 79-69.

Nick Kieser, Sports feature writer

The Lady Toppers (1-1) opened the Preseason WNIT on Friday evening in Manhattan, Kansas against North Carolina A&T (0-2), the first-ever meeting between the two programs. WKU won its first game of the season 86-76. 

“I’m really proud of how the girls just keep persevering and keep pushing forward,” head coach Greg Collins said. “We didn’t play good basketball tonight, we didn’t play clean basketball tonight but we played well enough to win a ball game and that’s what matters.” 

Collins hit career win No. 50 on Friday evening, partially thanks to freshman Mya Meredith. She led the way by scoring 20 points and shooting 5-for-8 from deep. 

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“After that first shot I knew I needed to stay hot,” Meredith said. “Every time I got the ball, If I shot it, I knew it was going in.” 

Five Lady Toppers scored in double-digits and the team set a new program record by sinking 14 three-pointers. WKU turned the ball over 33 times but stayed relatively sharp on defense, grabbing 16 steals. 

“As a team we knew we could break some records, that’s what we’re preparing ourselves for,” Meredith said. “I think with us working hard everyday, competing with each other, we’ll set some records.” 

Sophomore transfer Teresa Faustino stole the ball to kick off the contest against the Lady Aggies and scored the first points of the weekend. 

The Lady Aggies drew the first few fouls of the contest and held WKU’s offense for a short time. Toward the end of the first quarter the Lady Toppers forced an aggressive full court press to limit clean offensive Lady Aggie breakouts. 

WKU had eight turnovers in the first frame but the Lady Aggies couldn’t capitalize, settling for 10 points from the inside paint. 

Meredith sparked the Lady Topper offense to open the second quarter with a three-pointer, claiming a 20-15 lead. Sophomore Hope Sivori exited the floor with an apparent knee injury a few minutes into the second frame but returned to action. 

WKU scored 11 unanswered points, taking a commanding lead over the Lady Aggies before the streak ended with 7:40 to go in the half. 

Sivori tallied her 100th career assist on a three-pointer by Faustino to extend WKU’s lead to 31-19. 

WKU kept its momentum alive to close out the first half but traded buckets late with the Lady Aggies. Sivori added a dagger from deep with two minutes left and helped WKU maintain its command.

The Lady Toppers led 49-37 at the halfway mark. WKU held the Lady Aggies to 1-for-9 shooting from deep and paced the scoring by shooting 53% from the field. 

WKU remained in its full court press and forced an early turnover as the aggressive scheme was still functioning at full steam. 

Sivori kept WKU’s pulse going and sank her third triple of the game giving WKU its spark back offensively, claiming a 52-40 lead. Faustino then drilled a three-pointer, giving WKU a near 20-point advantage.

WKU would go up by 18 on a three-pointer by Meredith. The true freshman set a new career-high in points during the third quarter, sinking a layup with less than two minutes remaining in the frame. 

“He always pushes you to be a better player,” Meredith said. “He knows your game. He knows when you’re having a good or bad day. As a team we need someone who pushes us all the time.” 

The Lady Aggies came out firing on all cylinders in the final frame, sinking three consecutive buckets in less than two minutes, cutting the deficit to 66-60. 

Meredith hit 20 points on the night, sinking a three-pointer with six minutes left and giving WKU a 71-60 lead. Freshman Jenna Walker then went 1-for-2 on the free throw line, reclaiming a 10 point lead. 

“We’ve got to be a little more versatile than just one dimensional,” Collins said. “That’s partly my fault as far as we play, but I thought in the second half that we were a little bit more deliberate with the pass.” 

Freshman Macey Blevins sank two three-pointers late, adding more salt to the Lady Aggies’ wounds as they trailed the Lady Toppers 81-69. N.C. A&T couldn’t make their shots for over a minute in the final moments of the game. 

The Lady Toppers held on to their lead to claim their first win of the season 86-76. 

“We were all sluggish,” Meredith said. “It’s a good win but in my opinion we should have played harder.” 

WKU has a day off on Saturday before tipping off against Kansas State at 1 p.m. on Sunday. 

Sports feature writer Nick Kieser can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on twitter @KieserNick.