Bowling Green, Ky. — For the second straight game, Western Kentucky University senior forward Crystal Kelly posted a 30-point scoring night, and she also set a new WKU career rebounding record in the Lady Toppers’ 82-64 victory over Missouri State Saturday afternoon at E.A. Diddle Arena.
The win was the second straight for WKU as it improved to 8-5 on the year. The Lady Bears fell to 2-9.
WKU showed little rust from a seven-day layoff as it opened the game on a 15-2 run — getting eight points from Crystal Kelly and five from Kenzie Rich during the stretch — to jump out to an early double-digit lead. In fact, the Lady Toppers limited Missouri State to just six field goals in the opening period of the contest.
The Lady Bears got as close as nine points on three occasions late in the half, but were held without a field goal for the final 6:33. After four MSU free throws — two each by Maggie Dwyer and Marisha Brown —
Rich knocked down a pair at the charity stripe to start a 13-0 Lady Topper run to end the half and send them to the locker room with a 41-19 lead.
For the third straight game, Kelly set a career record in the opening half. With her first rebound of the contest she surpassed Lillie Mason to become WKU’s career rebounding leader with 1,013. Kelly went on to lead all scorers in the opening half with 15 points, while pulling down eight rebounds.
Just as they did to start the game, the Lady Toppers opened the second half on a big run, scoring 12 of the first 14 points to pull out to a 32-point lead when a three-point play from Kelly made it 53-21 just four minutes into the half. WKU’s largest lead of the contest would come three minutes later when Rich connected on a layup to push the lead to 35 points.
The advantage stayed above 30 until the nine minute mark when Melissa Busby knocked down a three to cut the lead to 63-35. Busby — who was just 1-for-5 from behind the arc up until that point — knocked down her next six three-point attempts as she was able to help Missouri State cut its deficit down to 19 points with 6:30 remaining. WKU would regroup, however, scoring seven unanswered to make it a 77-52 score with just under five minutes to play. Busby knocked down two more threes in the closing minutes to help the Lady Bears cut the margin to 18 at the final buzzer.
After shooting 20.7 percent from the floor in the first half, MSU connected on 53.1 percent of its shots in the final period. However, the Lady Toppers shot 55.4 percent for the contest, including a 61.5 percent clip in the second half.
Kelly finished with a game-high 30 points, and also pulled down a team-best 10 rebounds for her seventh double-double of the season. Rich had her best scoring night since early in the season as she dropped in 18 points, while Dominique Duck tossed in 12. Busby finished with 21 points to pace Missouri State. Brown finished with 12 points, while Dwyer dropped in 10 points and pulled down a game-high 11 rebounds.
The Lady Toppers will be back in action on Thursday (Jan. 3) at 7 p.m. (CST) as they open the new year against Sun Belt Conference rival Middle Tennessee at E.A. Diddle Arena.