The WKU women's basketball team (12-6, 4-3 C-USA) concluded a three-game road trip in Conference USA play on Saturday afternoon, as the Lady Toppers dominated the fourth quarter to knock off Marshall (7-11, 2-5 C-USA) in a 74-65 road win in the Cam Henderson Center in Huntington, West Virginia.
WKU outscored Marshall 22-7 in the final six minutes of the game, extending its current winning streak against the Thundering Herd to seven games and pushing the Lady Topper basketball program’s overall record against Marshall to 13-1.
WKU shot 44% from the field, 26% from deep and 50% from the free-throw line. The Lady Toppers controlled the paint for the entire game, outrebounding the Thundering Herd 44-29, scoring 20 more points in the paint and netting 13 more second-chance points.
Redshirt senior forward Dee Givens carried WKU throughout the game, scoring 24 points and securing 11 rebounds in 37 minutes. She also led the way for the Lady Toppers in a 69-66 road victory at Marshall last season, posting a solid 23 points and 13 rebounds on Feb. 23, 2019.
Junior forward Raneem Elgedawy muscled her way to 19 points and 13 rebounds in her 29 minutes of play. Senior point guard Whitney Creech scored all 15 of her points in the second half and dished seven assists over the whole game to provide a lift for the struggling WKU offense.
Sophomore guard Meral Abdelgawad added 12 points of her own and snatched six rebounds in a solid overall performance for the Cairo, Egypt, native.
Marshall shot 42% from the field, 41% from beyond the arc and 71% from the charity stripe. The Thundering Herd held the lead for 23:40 of action, but Marshall allowed 29 points in the fourth quarter and enabled the Lady Toppers to steal a game that was tied for 7:13 of clock time.
Junior forward Taylor Pearson played huge for the Thundering Herd all afternoon, dropping in a team-high 18 points and grabbing seven boards in the loss.
Junior guard Kristen Mayo scored 17 points of her own, and senior wing Princess Clemons contributed 10 points in her 33 minutes of action.
The Thundering Herd bombarded the Lady Toppers from the tip, scoring seven points on 3-of-3 shooting from the field in the first 1:38 of the game. Pearson scored Marshall’s first five points before WKU attempted its first field goal.
Head coach Greg Collins then called a timeout at the 8:22 mark in hopes of regrouping his team and slowing the Thundering Herd attack.
Givens came out of the timeout on a mission, scorching the nets in the Cam Henderson Center for two consecutive 3-pointers and cutting the Marshall lead to one with 7:13 remaining in the first quarter.
The Thundering Herd responded quickly with a 6-0 run of their own to swell the Marshall lead to 13-6 at the 4:15 mark in the first.
The Lady Toppers stepped up on the defensive end to finish the quarter, holding the Thundering Herd without a made field goal for the final 4:15 of clock time.
WKU took advantage of the Marshall scoring drought, ripping off an 8-1 run thanks to four buckets in the paint by three different Lady Toppers. This scoring outburst tied the game at 14-14 going into the second quarter.
The Thundering Herd only converted on 31% of their field goal attempts in the first quarter, but Marshall used its ability to turn defense into offense by scoring seven of its 14 points off WKU turnovers.
A back-and-forth battle ensued in the early part of the second quarter, as the game remained tied at 23-23 when the Thundering Herd called a timeout with 5:55 remaining in the half.
Givens continued carrying the Lady Toppers coming out of the timeout, as she knocked down her fourth 3-pointer in the first half to give WKU its first lead of the game at 26-23.
The 7-0 scoring run spearheaded by Givens and Elgedawy allowed the Lady Toppers to take the lead at the 5:30 mark in the second. But Mayo answered quickly, snatching a narrow lead back for Marshall.
Mayo scored five straight points on her own, giving the Thundering Herd a slim two-point lead with 2:56 remaining in the half, 28-26.
WKU finished the half strong — Elgedawy and Abdelgawad both converted layups in the final 1:55 to grab a two-point lead back for the Lady Toppers going into the break, 30-28.
Despite only three WKU players scoring in the first 20 minutes of action, the Lady Toppers were able to carry a slim lead into the halftime intermission by outplaying Marshall in almost every major statistical category.
WKU and Marshall traded 3-pointers in the first 42 seconds of the half, the Thundering Herd went on a 7-2 scoring run to take a 38-35 lead over WKU with 5:09 left in the third.
After both teams traded the next two buckets, Creech asserted herself on the offensive end by scoring two layups and nailing two free throws before the end of the quarter.
Abdelgawad added another two points for the Lady Toppers bringing the scoring run to 8-2, and giving WKU a three-point lead with four seconds left in the third period.
The Lady Topper lead seemed to be safe as the final four seconds melted away. but freshman guard Savannah Wheeler sunk a deep 3-pointer at the buzzer, tying the game at 45-45 and swinging the momentum back to Marshall heading into the final quarter.
Both teams attacked the rim in the first minute of the fourth quarter, as Elgedawy finished back-to-back layups and Clemons and Mayo converted their high-percentage looks on the other end.
Marshall then began looking to the 3-point shot exclusively for its points as Clemons and Mayo combined for the next nine Thundering Herd points on outside shots.
The 9-3 scoring run Marshall was able to build helped the Thundering Herd secure a six-point lead with 6:24 left to play, but WKU refused to go away down 58-52.
Elgedawy continued her aggressive play in the lane, as she converted two more layup opportunities. This outburst brought her point total to nine in the quarter and shaved the Marshall lead to 58-56 with 5:22 remaining in the game.
Redshirt freshman guard Myriah Haywood then sparked a rally for the Lady Toppers, scoring her first four points of the game and igniting a 7-0 scoring run for WKU.
This run allowed the Lady Toppers to take the lead from the Thundering Herd yet again, and WKU claimed a 63-59 lead with 3:18 left in the fourth.
The Lady Toppers proved unfazed by a timeout by Marshall at the 3:03 mark, as WKU continued to pour it on in the latter stages of the fourth.
WKU ripped off another seven straight points by Creech and Abdelgawad, pushing the Lady Topper scoring run to 14-0 and blowing the game wide open with 1:10 remaining, 70-59.
The 11-point WKU lead proved to be more than enough, as the Lady Toppers made free throws down the stretch and ensured a decisive nine-point victory in conference play.
Following the win, the Lady Toppers will return to Diddle Arena for a two-game home set with both C-USA schools hailing from the Sunshine State — Florida Atlantic (9-9, 3-4 C-USA) and Florida International (4-14, 1-6 C-USA) — next weekend.
Tipoff against the Owls is set for 6 p.m. on Jan. 30, while game time versus the struggling Panthers is slated for 2 p.m. on Feb. 1.
Both games will be available on C-USA TV.