Lady Toppers lose close game to Tennessee Tech, Abdelgawad scores career-high 33 points


WKU guard Meral Abdelgawad (40) fights to hold onto the ball against FAU guard Iggy Allen (2) at the game at Diddle Arena on Feb. 5, 2021. WKU won 71-64.

Joseph Thompson, Women's basketball reporter

The Lady Toppers’ five-game win streak was ended by the Tennessee Tech University Golden Eagles Sunday afternoon. The Lady Toppers were defeated 72-76 despite senior forward Meral Abdelgawad’s spectacular 33 points and 11 rebound performance.

Abdelgawad scored 19 of her team’s 35 first-half points while the other Lady Toppers struggled to get into a rhythm all night. The Lady Toppers were out-rebounded 34-27 and committed 23 fouls, which resulted in the Golden Eagles shooting 23-32 (71%) from the free throw line. The Lady Toppers shot 11-13 ( 84%) from the stripe and the disparity in free throw attempts and was, according to head coach Greg Collins, the story of the game.

“I think they shot 50% from the field so that made a big difference in the game,  really the hard thing to overcome was they were scoring so many points from the free throw line, it was just tough,” Collins said. “They got 19 more attempts from the free throw line than we did. That’s a 12 point differential, that was hard to overcome and our kids were having a hard time because we didn’t feel like the same thing was happening on both ends – we felt like we couldn’t get the same opportunities.”

The Lady Toppers  shot 45.8% from the field and 36.8% from behind the three-point line. Despite WKU only turning the ball over 17 times and dominating the Golden Eagles in the interior, out scoring them 34-24 in the paint, WKU failed to maintain its offensive efficiency in the second half and only shoot 30.4% (12-30) from the field.

The Lady Toppers were solid defensively against the Golden Eagles. They forced 20 turnovers and stole the ball from Tennessee Tech eight times. WKU did lose the rebounding battle and committed too many fouls late in the game, keeping Tennessee Tech at the free throw line. Freshman guard Macey Blevins said the Golden Eagles picked the WKU defense apart by moving the ball and hitting open shooters.

“They kind of just broke our defense down,” Blevins said. “They had a lot of open shots on the help side which led to a lot of kick-outs and they just made a lot of tough shots.”

Adbelgawad led the game in scoring and rebounds and was the standout performer of the day despite the loss. No other Lady Topper scored in double digits. Abdelgawad said she encouraged her teammates to play with energy and to continue playing defense while they were struggling offensively. 

“I told them to play. Even though you’re not scoring well, play defense when you are struggling,” Abdelgawad said. “We did not have a lot of energy on the court and we were hanging our heads down, so that’s not going to work. We have to be able to keep playing with energy on the court.”

The Lady Toppers dominated Tennessee Tech early in the opening quarter. WKU began the quarter on a 9-1 run, but Tennessee State found their offensive rhythm halfway through the first frame. The Lady Toppers won the quarter 21-19. Abdelgawad had 12 points in the first quarter alone.

The first quarter would be the only time that WKU outscored Tennessee tech. Both sides scored 14 points in the second period and the visitors switched from a full-court defense to half-court to try and slow the Lady Toppers down. WKU led at halftime 35-33.

In the third quarter, both teams exchanged leads throughout the frame. The Golden Eagles lived at the free throw line in the second half, taking 23 free throws. 

The game was tied entering the fourth quarter at 55 all. The Golden Eagles opened the quarter on a 7-0 scoring run and maintained the lead the rest of the quarter. Abdelgawad scored five straight points to narrow the deficit but the Golden Eagles continued to draw fouls and hit free throws. Blevins hit a three-pointer with 15 seconds left in the game to bring WKU within three, but Tennessee Tech nailed two free throws with eight seconds left to secure their victory.

The Lady Toppers have a 10-day break before their next game Dec. 15 against the University of Miami(Ohio) in Oxford, Ohio.

Women’s basketball reporter Joseph Thompson can be reached at [email protected].