The WKU women's basketball team advanced to the Round of 16 the Postseason Women’s National Invitation Tournament on Sunday afternoon, as the Lady Toppers knocked off in-state opponent Morehead State in their second-round contest.
WKU (20-14) returned to Bowling Green and hosted the Eagles (24-11) for a hard-fought game, committing 21 turnovers in the process. MSU dominated the paint 36-22, but the Lady Toppers out-rebounded the Eagles 44-41 and held MSU to only 33 percent shooting from the floor and 14 percent from deep in a 68-65 win in Diddle Arena.
“Well, toughness is not playing dirty, it’s just not going away,” head coach Greg Collins said. “When something goes wrong, you just step back up and you fix it and you just be tougher. We put on the board – we’re just going to refuse to lose. No matter what goes wrong, we’re just going to refuse to lose and I saw that in the players tonight.”
The Lady Toppers were led by redshirt junior forward Dee Givens and redshirt junior guard Alexis Brewer. Givens had 23 points, eight rebounds and two assists, while Brewer tallied 19 points, six rebounds and four assists.
“I think at the end of the game, they cut it and so we were like – not really nervous but you know, we had to lock down on defense and grind it out,” Brewer said. “And I think we did that.”
Sophomore forward Raneem Elgedawy won the tip for the Lady Toppers, later kicking the ball out to Brewer for a game-opening 3-pointer.
The Eagles answered with a 3-pointer of their own, setting up a back-and-forth affair in an opening frame that saw six ties and three lead changes between the two squads.
MSU took an 11-9 lead on a put-back layup at the 5:24 mark, but from that point, both squads rattled off extended scoring runs. WKU took a 16-11 lead after a 7-0 run, while the Eagles took a 17-16 lead thanks to a 6-0 run. After one, the score was tied 17-17.
Neither squad scored in the second frame until redshirt junior guard Aliyah Jeune netted a layup for MSU with 8:33 left to play. The Eagles kept pushing, eventually using a 6-0 scoring run to take a 28-23 lead over the Lady Toppers at the 3:08 mark.
Givens, who scored eight of her 13 first-half points in the second quarter, quickly took control of the contest. Givens single-handedly lead the Lady Toppers on a 5-0 run that tied the game once again with 1:57 left, 28-28.
The game was then deadlocked 30-30 until Jeune nailed a buzzer-beating 3-pointer for the Eagles and silenced the Diddle crowd, which had been booing an official’s call.
Jeune finished with 21 points, which led all MSU scorers.
MSU led WKU by a narrow margin at the halftime break, 33-30.
The Lady Toppers began the second half on a 6-0 run, as Elgedawy tied the game seconds into the half on a three-point play before Givens swished a 3-pointer.
After falling behind 37-35 at the 8:18 mark, MSU rattled off five unanswered points to kick off a stretch where both teams enjoyed scoring runs. WKU tallied a 4-0 run that MSU answered with its own 4-0 run to take a 44-41 lead with 3:24 left.
The last three minutes of the third were a whirlwind, with both squads trading field goals and foul shots. MSU led by as much as four late in the frame, but two foul shots from Brewer got the Lady Toppers within two headed into the fourth, 51-49.
Like the third, WKU started the final quarter on a 6-0 run. The scoring stretch gave Lady Toppers a 55-51 advantage with 7:37 left in the contest, but the Eagles answered yet again, using a 4-0 run to tie the game 55-55.
But the Lady Toppers were not going to be denied, as Brewer netted a 3-pointer to put WKU back in front by three. Givens then added an and-one layup, giving her squad a 61-55 lead with only 4:18 left on the game clock.
The game looked like it would wind down as a foul-shooting contest, but the Eagles refused to fly home quietly. After not scoring a field goal for over four minutes, senior guard Miranda Crockett turned a stolen inbounds pass into an and-one layup for MSU.
The Eagles got as close as one point with a little over a minute to play, but two free throws from junior guard Whitney Creech sealed the deal. MSU had a chance to tie on the final possession, but WKU finished off a three-point home win and advanced.
Following the victory, the Lady Toppers will proceed to the third round of the WNIT.
WKU will meet Ohio (29-5), which overcame a halftime deficit to defeat Middle Tennessee State (23-11) 59-57 this afternoon.
According to a tweet from WKU women’s basketball’s verified Twitter account, WKU will hit the road to face the Bobcats on Thursday at 6 p.m. in the Convocation Center.