Lady Toppers allow 11-point comeback to Charlotte, losing third straight game

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Tucker Covey

WKU freshman guard Alexis Mead goes up for a layup and gets fouled in a 79-74 lost to Charlotte on Feb. 3 inside Diddle Arena.

Wyatt Sparkman, Sports Editor

WKU Lady Toppers Basketball (14-7, C-USA 7-3) dropped its third consecutive game 79-74 on Thursday afternoon, giving up an 11-point fourth quarter lead to the Charlotte 49ers (10-7, C-USA 6-1). 

“They did everything well enough to win the game,” WKU head coach Greg Collins said. “It was just some plays down the stretch that hurt us. Some was our own doing, some was my fault, some was the officials seeing the game differently than how we saw the game. At the end of the day, we’ve been talking about how before you can win big games, you’ve got to learn how to not lose big games.” 

This was the first win for the 49ers against the Lady Toppers since 2017, snapping a seven-game losing streak while grasping their first victory in Diddle Arena.  

Senior Meral Abdelgawad led the Lady Toppers with 20 points, shooting 8-of-14 from the field and 4-of-4 from the charity stripe while coming up with seven rebounds. 

Charlotte redshirt senior MiKayla Boykin scored 19 points, hitting 4-of-9 three pointers while grabbing four rebounds and two steals. She was one of five 49ers that scored in double digits in the game. 

WKU won the tip and started the game with a much different offensive approach. The Lady Toppers came out with a slower-paced offense than their usual up-tempo, fastbreak style. 

“We want to be up, but a lot of that is that Charlotte is a very experienced group,” Collins said. “They have super senior guards that are two of the best in the conference, and you don’t speed them up very easily.” 

Freshman Mya Meredith opened up scoring with a mid-range jumper before sophomore Molina Williams splashed a three pointer for Charlotte on the other end. The scoring came to a halt after the back-to-back baskets. 

Both teams combined to shoot 3-of-18 from the field before Abdelgawad hit a layup, heating up the Lady Topper offense. WKU shot 4-of-6 from the field to end the quarter and take a 15-8 lead into the second period.

The Lady Toppers’ hot end didn’t transfer over from quarter to quarter, shooting 35% as a team in the second period. WKU started the second quarter with a 4:19 scoring drought, while Charlotte fought its way back in the game with a 6-0 run to cut the Lady Topper lead to 15-13.  

Both programs would trade baskets before senior Jada McMillian’s layup tied the game at 21 each with 2:44 left in the second quarter. The first half ended in thrilling fashion with the Lady Toppers and 49ers hitting four consecutive three pointers to end the half. Both teams were tied 27-27 going into the break.       

Collins lit a fire underneath his squad at the break, because the second quarter saw a much different style of play from the Lady Toppers than the first. WKU went back to its fast-paced tempo and shots started to fall for them, shooting 62.5% while scoring 13 of their 26 points in the quarter in transition. 

“At halftime, we came in [the locker room], and we decided we were going to start pushing the ball a little better and it just didn’t work out that way,” sophomore guard Hope Sivori said. “[It’s] just something that is a positive in our game we have to do for every game, because we have to push the pace because teams can’t keep up with that.” 

Both teams started the second half hot trading baskets before WKU started to open up its lead after scoring nine points in a 54-second span. The Lady Toppers used the scoring burst to build up their largest lead of the game 51-41 after two Abdelgawad free throws. 

The 49ers cut the lead back down to two possessions before Abdelgawad intercepted a pass and hit a layup at the buzzer to give the Lady Toppers a 53-45 lead going into the fourth quarter. 

WKU slowed the pace down to start the fourth and the shooting woes reared their ugly head again, but the fouls the Lady Toppers committed were the main story. Charlotte shot 10 free throws, making seven to WKU’s one.

WKU kept Charlotte at arm’s length before Boykin came in clutch for the 49ers in the last two minutes of action, hitting a three pointer to cut the lead to 61-59. After a Meredith layup and two McMillian free throws cut the lead back down to two.

With a three-second difference between the shot clock and game clock, Charlotte elected to trust its defense to come up with a stop. The 49ers forced freshman Alexis Mead into a tough contested shot with seven seconds left before Mead fouled Boykin with 1.8 seconds left. 

Boykin made both free throws to tie the game at 63-63. WKU’s last second heave fell short and the game went into overtime. 

The 49ers continued where they left off at the end of regulation, starting the overtime on a 10-0 run. Sivori and Abdelgawad put the team on their backs, going on a 8-1 run with back-to-back and-ones to cut the lead down 74-71 with 1:58 left in overtime. 

“They kind of had the momentum, and we didn’t do a good job of stopping that [and] getting our own momentum back,” freshman guard Macey Blevins said. “We always fight back when we get down. We’re always going to fight back.” 

Sivori came up huge again a few possessions later, cutting off a passing lane to grab a steal that led to a Mead three to cut the deficit to 75-74. WKU regained possession after an offensive foul by McMillian. 

Abdelgawad held the ball for WKU to regain the lead but took one too many steps and was called for traveling. WKU fouled and Charlotte went up 77-74 after two free throws. Boykin stole the in-bound pass to secure the comeback win for the 49ers.

“We went on a good run there the first part of the conference, but we knew these games, the last three were going to be tougher than the ones in the beginning,” Blevins said. “Nobody wants to lose, especially in conference, but I think we can really learn from these and carry it into the end of our season to finish it out.” 

Up next, the Lady Toppers will be back in Diddle Arena hosting the Old Dominion Monarchs at 2 p.m. Saturday.

Sports Editor Wyatt Sparkman can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @wyattsparkman3.