Lady Toppers’ second half rally leads to an overtime win over FAU


Arthur H. Trickett-Wile

WKU Lady Topper senior guard Meral Abdelgawad (4) shoots for two Saturday afternoon, Jan. 22 of 2022 during a match against the FIU Panthers in Diddle Arena. FIU lost 87-66.

Joseph Thompson, Women's Basketball Reporter

WKU Women’s Basketball (16-7, 9-3 C-USA) defeated the Florida Atlantic Owls (5-18,1-11 C-USA) in an overtime thriller Thursday night in Boca Raton, Fla. The Lady Toppers have won six consecutive games against the Owls, as well as 13 of the last 14 meetings.

“I’m really proud of how our girls keep their composure,” WKU head Coach Greg Collins said. “In those situations, we don’t get scattered, we don’t get frantic, we in some ways play more focused and more under control in those situations than we do the whole rest of the game.”

Despite star freshman Mya Meredith being out for the season, WKU’s offense rallied in the second half after trailing the majority of the game. 


The Lady Toppers shot 24-of-73 (32.9%) from the field and 6-of-30 (20%) from the three-point line. They scored 36 points in the paint and were efficient in transition, scoring 13 fast breaks.The WKU bench scored nine points while the Lady Toppers won the rebound battle 46 to 41.

Despite the victory, WKU was abysmal from the free throw line, shooting 18-of-32 (56.2%). 

“This is a smart bunch,” Collins said. “I mean, they’re learning a lot about how to close out games, and today we learned that we have to make free throws.” 

The Lady Topper defense showed major resilience in their matchup against the Owls. WKU trailed from the beginning of the second quarter until the 1:46 mark of the fourth quarter. FAU held to 23-of-53 (43.4%) from the field and 5-of-16 (31.3%) from behind the three-point line. 

The Lady Toppers blocked two shots and stole the ball 14 times. WKU forced 22 FAU turnovers, which resulted in 23 points for the Lady Toppers. 

FAU’s redshirt senior Rita Pleskivich torched WKU in the first half with 19 points but finished the game with 21. Collins believed she was getting too many open looks and challenged his team to make it tougher on her in the second half.

“I told them, ‘You let her go off, you’re not going to play,’” Collins said. “So, they decided to lock down after that, and they did a much better job on her.”

Senior forward Meral Abdelgawad and freshman forward Jaylin Foster were the standout players of the game. Abdelgawad scored 23 points, grabbed seven rebounds and dished out four assists. Foster posted her first career double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds. 

 “We told her [Foster], ‘If you don’t rebound, we can’t win,’” Collins said. “‘You have to rebound like you did against Old Dominion.’ She was a warrior. I’m so proud of Meral. I mean, we missed a ton of shots. A lot of young ladies get frustrated and give up, quit fighting, because of the missed shots, but this team just keeps on, they’ve got a lot of heart.

The Owls got off to a quick 4-0 lead before Abdelgawad found her groove. She had a hand in the first nine points for the Lady Toppers, scoring six while assisting on a three pointer by freshman Macey Blevins. 

The offenses slowed down in the last half of the opening quarter, ending with a 12-11 lead for WKU. FAU’s Rita Pleskevich scored seven of the 11 first-quarter points for the Owls.   

The Abdelgawad and Pleskevich show continued into the second quarter, with both scoring nine of the first 10 points in the quarter and hitting the first 10-of-13 field goals of the game. The Lady Toppers started to cool off while Pleskevich continued to hit her shots. FAU went into halftime with a 25-17 lead over WKU. Pleskevich scored 19 of those 25.  

This was the first game for the Lady Toppers since Meredith was ruled out for the season. Sophomore guard Hope Sivori stepped into her role but struggled early. She started the game 0-of-5 from the field and 0-of-4 from behind the arc. 

Sivori wasn’t the only one who got off to a slow start. WKU shot 26% from the field in the half, while shooting a dreadful 2-of-15 from the three-point range (13.3%) and 1-of-6 (16.7%) from the charity stripe.      

Foster dominated the offensive boards in the third quarter with four. Freshman Alexis Mead scored 10 points in the quarter, which was the turning point of the game. 

The Lady Toppers outscored the Owls 24-20 in the fourth quarter and took the lead from FAU at the 1:24 mark from an Abdelgawad and-one. 

Foster split a pair of free throws that tied the game with six seconds remaining in regulation. Sivori bounced back from her slow start, hitting timely shots and scoring the first points of overtime.

The Lady Toppers did not look back in overtime, scoring the first four points and winning the quarter 7-4. WKU made 3-of-4 (75%) of its free throws in OT, which was the turning point of the period.

The Lady Toppers’ next game is Sunday at 1 p.m. in Diddle Arena against the University of Texas at San Antonio. This is the first meeting of the season between WKU and UTSA.

Women’s Basketball Reporter Joseph Thompson can be reached at [email protected]