The WKU women's basketball team (14-6, 6-3 C-USA) notched its fourth straight win in Conference USA play on Saturday evening, as the Lady Toppers led for the entire second half against Florida International (5-16, 2-8 C-USA) in a 71-51 blowout win in Diddle Arena.
WKU put its nine-game home winning streak on the line against the visiting Panthers, and the Lady Toppers came through by moving to a perfect 8-0 record in Diddle Arena this season.
The Lady Toppers now leads the all-time series over FIU 31-9, but head coach Greg Collins said his team was focused on making sure they were defending well no matter the opponent.
“Our effort has to be based on how well we are doing on the defensive boards and how well we are guarding the opponents best players and all their players,” Collins said. “I felt like early on we were a little bit sluggish. Then, I got mad at Raneem and she got mad and played better.”
“We just got to play with that kind of intensity on defense and on the boards,” Collins continued. “We aren't going to be perfect. We’ve got limitations on defense, but we also got some smart kids, we got some kids that are competitive that want to win and when you got that combination, you can find a way.”
WKU shot 47% from the field, 29% from beyond the arc and 50% from the free-throw line. WKU continued to dominate the glass, finishing with a 43-22 advantage on the boards. The Lady Toppers also won the battle in the paint and in transition, 36-24 and 15-4, respectively.
Junior forward Raneem Elgedawy led the Lady Toppers with 21 points and 14 rebounds, marking her third straight double-double and her tenth overall for the season.
Redshirt senior forward Dee Givens added 19 points and five rebounds, while senior point guard Whitney Creech contributed 10 points and eight boards for WKU.
“Of course, making [3-pointers] is important,” Givens said. “It helps our confidence out a lot, but we are just going to keep on shooting and and just keep on shooting and then eventually they are going to drop.”
FIU shot 41% from the field and 24% from the three-point line. The Panthers posted a 67% mark from the charity stripe and also picked up 25 points from their bench players compared to just eight points from Lady Topper reserves.
Senior forward Ieva Spigule led a supremely balanced Panther scoring attack with 12 points, while junior guard Jiselle Thomas added 11 points, three assists and two rebounds.
Redshirt senior center Chelsea Guimaraes tallied nine points and three rebounds in 15 minutes, making herself a standout among nine total FIU scorers.
The game started out as a defensive battle. The score remained 0-0 until Guimares hit a jump shot at the 7:40 mark. The Lady Toppers remained scoreless until Elgedawy finished a layup at the 5:23 mark.
Creech scored on back-to-back possessions, but WKU still trailed 6-9 with 3:08 left to play in the first quarter. Elgedawy cut WKU’s deficit to three with a 3-pointer of her own. The Lady Toppers kept pushing, making the game a one-point contest at the end of the first quarter.
Redshirt senior forward Sandra Skinner tied the game up at the charity stripe. Skinner went 1-of-2 from the line, leaving the game at 14-14 with 8:56 left to play in the second quarter.
Junior guard Sherry Porter then drained a corner three as the shot clock was winding down, tying the game at 17-17 with 7:29 left to play in the second quarter.
Baskets were hard to come by midway through the second quarter, as WKU was held without a basket for 3:20 of clock time. The Lady Toppers eventually found their way back into the scoring column with back-to-back layups, trimming their deficit to 22-21 with 3:49 left before halftime.
WKU took its first lead of the game off a transition layup from Creech, and her successful shot made the game 25-24 at the 2:55 mark. Later, Givens swished a wide-open 3-pointer to put the Lady Toppers up seven points with only 11 seconds left to play in the first half.
The Lady Toppers held on to their seven-point advantage for the final seconds of the opening period, eventually securing a 32-25 lead for WKU going into the halftime break.
Givens opened up the third quarter with another made 3-pointer, which gave WKU an eight-point lead with 9:14 left to play in the frame, 35-27.
Both teams exchanged makes early in the third period, but Porter eventually extended the Lady Topper lead to double digits with a shifty drive to the hoop. She finished her flashy drive off with a layup, making the score 45-34 at the 4:09 mark.
After redshirt senior guard Alexis Brewer drew an offensive foul call on Thomas at the 1:32 mark, Porter went down with an apparent knee injury and had to be helped off the court.
Brewer drilled a 3-pointer off an assist from Elgedawy, and Givens hit a jumper with two seconds remaining in the third quarter. The Lady Toppers ended the period on a combined 13-3 scoring run, claiming a 54-37 lead over the Panthers entering the final quarter of play.
Givens started the fourth quarter out with a pair of points at the free-throw line, sparking an 11-0 scoring run that lasted several consecutive minutes of clock time for the Lady Toppers.
The scoring stretch included a second-chance bucket by Elgedawy, a 3-pointer from Givens and some stellar defense, as Givens stole the ball from Thomas and keyed a WKU fast break that was finished off by a Creech layup.
Givens capitalized yet again in transition, as she finished a layup to give WKU a 68-44 lead with 3:45 left to play in the contest. Collins began emptying his bench late, and freshman guard De’Myla Brown added a 1-of-2 showing from the free-throw line.
WKU added no field goals in the last 3:45 of clock time, but the Lady Topper bench finished the game strong and helped WKU coast to a 20-point victory on its home floor.
Following the win, the Lady Toppers will travel to Ruston, Louisiana, before continuing C-USA play against Louisiana Tech (10-10, 2-7 C-USA).
Tipoff in the Thomas Assembly Center is set for 6:30 p.m. on Feb. 6.
The game will be available on C-USA TV.