Abdelgawad’s 28 points help lead Lady Toppers to 10th C-USA win

WKU+Lady+Topper+senior+guard+Meral+Abdelgawad+%284%29+shoots+for+two+Saturday+afternoon%2C+Jan.+22+of+2022+during+a+match+against+the+FIU+Panthers+in+Diddle+Arena.+FIU+lost+87-66.

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.

Wyatt Sparkman, Sports Editor

The Lady Toppers (17-7, C-USA 10-3) scraped by the UTSA Roadrunners (5-18, C-USA 2-10) with a 81-70 win Sunday afternoon in Diddle Arena. This is the 10th Conference USA win for the Hilltoppers this season. 

“We were giving up a lot of easy shots in the first half,” WKU head coach Greg Collins said. “The turnovers kept compiling, we had 25 striking turnovers. We’ve been trending in the right way, we know we’ve got some of our more experienced players with bad turnovers, and so we’ve just got to settle down. Some of that credit goes to UTSA, but a lot of it is just us, just settling down and not playing so frantic with the ball and making sure we’re playing one step at a time in the game, but I’m proud of how hard they fought.” 

Senior Meral Abdelgawad led both teams with 28 points, while grabbing 10 rebounds. Freshman Alexis Mead scored 14 points while putting up seven assists and grabbing five rebounds. 

“I was trying to run transition and drive and get fouls so we can win this game,” Abdelgawad said. “I was trying to do what they wanted me to do.”   

Junior Queen Ulabo led the Roadrunners with 12 points on 5-of-8 shooting. Graduate Jadyn Pimentel had an all-around game, scoring eight points while assisting on eight made baskets and grabbing seven rebounds and seven steals.

Offense was the name of the game early as both teams got off to a hot start. Abdelgawad started the scoring on the first shot of the game before both programs would go tick-for-tack with their up-tempo style of play, combining for 27 points and shooting 56.6% from the field in the first five minutes of play. 

The scoring came to a screeching halt. Turnovers and fouls slowed the pace of the game down and both teams got out of rhythm. Both teams combined for five points the rest of the quarter while shooting 13% from the field. 

UTSA took its first lead of the game on Ulabo’s layup with 6:38 left in the first quarter. The Roadrunners kept the Lady Toppers at arm’s length, matching them blow for blow. UTSA went to the second quarter with a 17-15 lead.      

The sloppy play continued into the second quarter with 11 total turnovers. UTSA and WKU kept trading baskets before two Abdelgawad free throws sparked the first run of the game. Macey Blevins hit a three pointer to give WKU a 29-28 lead with 2:06 left in the first half.

The Lady Toppers hit 3-of-4 shots on their run while skinning five three throws in the last 3:11 of the half. WKU ended the half on a 12-4 run to take a 35-32 lead into the locker room. 

UTSA came out of the locker room steaming, starting the third quarter on a 10-3 run. The Roadrunners created five turnovers, scoring eight points off those turnovers. The Hilltoppers struggled from the field, shooting 31.3% in the quarter to allow UTSA to take its largest lead of the game 48-40 with 4:01 left in the third quarter. 

“I think we started to get a lot of defensive rebounds so that makes us run in transition,” Abdelgawad said. “I think that helped us get back in the game.”

A three pointer by freshman Jenna Walker and a layup by Abdelgawad helped cut the lead to 48-45 before free throws became the focal point of the game. WKU shot 10 free throws in the last three minutes of the third quarter. The Hilltoppers made eight of those chances, helping them take a 55-54 lead into the fourth quarter.  

The Roadrunners took a 59-58 lead before WKU got into a groove in the fourth quarter. The Hilltoppers went on a 12-0 run to pull away. They shot 78% from the field while UTSA failed to make the most of its opportunities, shooting 2-of-8 from the charity stripe.

UTSA fought their way back into the game, cutting the lead to seven after junior Deborah Nwakamma drilled a three pointer. Hope Sivori made a layup to ice the game and secure a 81-70 victory over the Roadrunners. 

“The positive is we made free throws,” Collins said. “The negative is we’re still turning the ball over too much to beat really good teams. So we’re going to have to take care of the ball, keep rebounding like we are, make free throws like we are. We just got to do a better job of getting good, clean shots.”

Up next, WKU will travel to Charlotte, N.C., to try and avenge a loss to the Charlotte 49ers Thursday at 5 p.m. The game will be broadcast on ESPN+.

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