The WKU women's basketball team (15-6, 7-3 C-USA) picked up a key road win in Conference USA play on Thursday night, as the Lady Toppers battled Louisiana Tech (10-11, 2-8 C-USA) for 40 minutes to seize an 84-75 away victory in the Thomas Assembly Center in Ruston, Louisiana.
The Lady Toppers entered the contest on a four-game winning streak and had claimed six of their last seven games, but head coach Greg Collins was forced to make a significant change to his usual starting lineup against the Lady Techsters.
Junior guard Sherry Porter suffered an MCL injury against Florida International on Feb. 1 and is currently considered “week-by-week.” Porter’s absence was significant for WKU, and Collins said his team didn’t compete at quite the level he wanted against LA Tech.
“When you have a player like Sherry Porter that's not in the lineup, that's not just a matter of putting somebody out there and executing the same thing,” Collins said postgame. “We just didn't have the same flow, the same chemistry.”
WKU shot 47% from the field, 44% from beyond the arc and 73% from the free-throw line. The Lady Toppers finished the game with an advantage on the glass, leading LA Tech 38-32.
WKU also led the way in the fast-break points column, outscoring the Lady Techsters 15-10 in transition.
The team’s overall response to the absence of one of its key contributors was admirable, as redshirt senior guard Alexis Brewer stepped into the starting five and was a key contributor to the Lady Toppers finishing with five players in double figures for the first time this season.
Senior point guard Whitney Creech led the charge with a team-high 21 points, while Brewer finished with 17 points in her return to the starting lineup.
Junior forward Raneem Elgedawy secured her fourth straight double-double with 17 points and 11 rebounds, while sophomore guard Meral Abdelgawad grabbed her first career double-double by racking up 13 points and a career-high 15 rebounds.
Redshirt senior forward Dee Givens also added 13 points in 31 minutes played.
LA Tech shot 48% from the field, 47% from the three-point line and 82% from the charity stripe. The Lady Techster bench came up huge, outscoring the WKU bench 19-3, but LA Tech had problems maintaining possession of the ball and committed 18 total turnovers.
Senior guard Grayson Bright led the way for the Lady Techsters, posting a game-high 25 points on 11-of-15 shooting from the field. Junior guard Amber Dixon added 17 points and five rebounds, while sophomore guard Keiunna Walker contributed 11 points.
“Our offense finally got going for us,” Brewer said. “We’ve been in an offensive slump, but we’ve been covering it up on the defensive end. Tonight, we struggled more on the defensive end and covered it up on the offensive end.”
The Lady Toppers started out the game strong on both ends of the court, as Givens blocked junior forward MeMe Amand’s layup attempt with 9:37 left to play in the first quarter.
Elgedawy also dished out an assist to Brewer, who drained a 3-pointer at the 7:05 mark. Givens stole the ball and finished in transition, giving WKU a 10-2 lead with 6:43 left in the first quarter.
Coming out of a Lady Techster timeout, WKU forced a shot clock violation and regained possession with 6:09 left to play in the first quarter. Brewer drained her second 3-pointer giving the Lady Toppers a 15-4 lead with 4:38 left to play in the first quarter.
Junior forward Fatou Pouye made her presence felt by rejecting a Walker layup with 48 seconds left in the first quarter, and WKU went into the second quarter with a 12-point lead.
The Lady Toppers led 23-11 to open the second frame, which opened with the Lady Techsters and WKU exchancing layups. Givens and Walker kicked off a back-and-forth stretch, but WKU maintained its 12-point lead with nine minutes left to play in the second quarter.
Freshman guard De’Myla Brown got into the scoring column with a mid-range jumper with 6:49 left to play in the second quarter, and Abdelgawad drained a three-pointer on WKU’s next possession to give the Lady Toppers a 31-16 lead with 5:54 left to play in the first half.
LA Tech responded to its deficit by storming its way back into the game. The Lady Techsters mounted a 17-point scoring run, including back-to-back 3-pointers from Dixon and sophomore guard Amber Hawkison.
The Lady Techsters took their first lead of the game following another 3-pointer from Bright with 1:26 left to play in the second quarter.
WKU allowed its lead to slip away by going ice cold midway through the second quarter, failing to convert a single basket for 5:30 of clock time as the halftime break approached.
Abdelgawad stopped the bleeding with a pair of layups for WKU with under a minute to play in the opening frame, but the Lady Techsters finished out the quarter with a last-second basket by Bright. Her bucket allowed LA Tech to take a 38-35 lead over the Lady Toppers into the break.
LA Tech ended the first half on a combined 22-4 scoring run in the last 5:25 of clock time, and the Lady Techsters added insult to injury by netting each of their last three field goals.
The Lady Toppers started the third quarter with a Givens block, but LA Tech grabbed an offensive rebound to set up a 3-pointer from junior guard Raizel Guinto. Her make gave the Lady Techsters a 41-35 lead over WKU with 8:45 left to play in the third quarter.
WKU answered back with a 3-pointer of its own, as Brewer hit yet another 3-pointer to put the Lady Toppers within three points with 08:31 left to play in the third period.
The Lady Toppers then opened up a 10-2 run following a pair of Creech layups and another Brewer 3-pointer, giving WKU a 45-43 lead with 6:23 left to play in the third quarter.
This lead was short-lived, as LA Tech opened up a 6-0 run and grabbed a 49-45 lead over the Lady Toppers with 4:49 left to play in the third quarter.
Abdelgawad made a pair of free throws from the charity stripe, cutting the LA Tech lead to four with 3:56 left to play in the third quarter. Elgedawy then converted a three-point play, putting her in double figures with 11 points at the 3:30 mark in the third quarter.
Following a mid-range jumper by Elgedawy at the 2:57 mark, the Lady Toppers tied up the ball game at 56-56 with a Givens fastbreak 3-pointer with 2:26 left to play in the third frame.
Elgedawy soon found her way to the charity stripe yet again, sinking both tries to give WKU a 58-56 lead with 58 seconds to play in the third quarter.
The Lady Toppers ended the quarter on a 7-3 scoring run, but the Lady Techsters headed into the fourth quarter with a one-point advantage over WKU, 59-58.
Creech opened the decisive frame with back-to-back layups, giving the Lady Toppers a 62-59 lead with 8:39 left to play in the fourth quarter.
Creech started out the final quarter on fire, as the Jenkins native capped a personal 4 for 4 opening from the field by draining a 3-pointer with 7:40 remaining in the contest.
The Lady Toppers bursted out of the gates with a 13-3 scoring run, giving themselves a 71-62 advantage over LA Tech with 6:54 left to play in the final frame.
The Lady Techsters surged back with a 6-0 run of their own, cutting the LA Tech deficit to three points with 5:29 left to play, 71-68.
Brewer was on fire from deep all night, and she drained another 3-pointer to extend the Lady Topper lead to nine with 2:29 left to play in the game, 80-71.
Creech hit another layup with 26 seconds left in the game, and although Dixon scored once more with 18 seconds left, the Lady Toppers secured a nine-point road victory.
Following the win, the Lady Toppers will travel to Hattiesburg, Mississippi, before continuing C-USA play against Southern Mississippi (11-10, 3-7 C-USA) on Saturday.
Tipoff in Reed Green Coliseum is set for 4 p.m. on Feb. 8.
The game will be streamed live for ESPN+ subscribers.