Monroe, La. — The Western Kentucky University women’s basketball team shot a season-best 64.6 percent from the field and put five players in double figures as they won their fifth straight game and remained unbeaten in Sun Belt Conference play with an 82-71 win over Louisiana-Monroe Thursday evening at Fant-Ewing Coliseum.
The win leaves WKU as the only remaining undefeated team in Sun Belt play as they moved to 4-0 in the league and 11-5 overall on the season. ULM fell to 10-5 and dropped to 3-1 in the Sun Belt.
“It’s conference season, and any time you can come away with a victory — especially on the road — you have to be happy,” said Lady Topper head coach Mary Taylor Cowles. “There’s a reason Louisiana-Monroe has been as successful as it’s been to start the season. They are a very, very good basketball team, and we’re excited to get a win here on the road and stay undefeated in the conference.”
WKU shot better than 60 percent in both halves of the game, marking the first time it has accomplished that feat since a win at Villanova in the quarterfinals of the 2006 Postseason WNIT.
Despite shooting 65 percent in the second half, the Lady Toppers saw an 11-point halftime lead dwindle in the final 20 minutes. After pulling out to a 56-43 lead thanks to a Kenzie Rich three with 17:00 to play, ULM quickly cut the deficit down to single digits, and used a 14-3 run to cut the WKU lead to 59-57 on a Lottie Moore layup with 12:11 to play.
The Lady Toppers did not allow the Warhawks to pull even, and after trading baskets a free throw from Dominique Duck sparked a 6-0 run as the lead grew back to 67-59 midway through the half. After stretching the lead to 71-61 two minutes later on a layup by Arnika Brown, WKU did not allow ULM to get any closer than nine points the rest of the way as it picked up the 82-73 victory.
The Lady Toppers — who had been playing better second-half basketball since the start of conference play — shot 64.3 percent in the first half. Despite two early ties, WKU led the entire period as it scored 30 of its 45 points in the paint. Brown scored 10 points off the bench in the opening half, and gave the Lady Toppers their first double-digit lead of the game when a layup less than five minutes in made it a 19-9 contest. ULM got no closer than eight points the rest of the period as WKU went out in front by 15 points on a pair of occasions — the last coming when a pair of Duck free throws with 2:43 left on the clock made it a 43-28 game. The Warhawks were able to close that margin to 11 at intermission, however, as WKU went into the locker room with a 45-34 lead.
Four Lady Toppers finished with at least nine points in the half as Charlotte Marshall joined Brown in double figures with 10 points. Crystal Kelly and Duck each finished with nine points, while Lottie Moore paced the Warhawks in the first half with 11 points.
Kelly scored 12 of her game-high 21 points in the second half, while also adding a team-best eight rebounds. Marshall and Brown each added 12 points, while Duck tossed in 11 points and Rich added 10.
LaJeanna Howard paced ULM with 21 points, while Moore added 19 points and 11 rebounds. She also accounted for six of the Warhawks’ 26 offensive rebounds in the contest. Regena Jackson tossed in 13 points off the bench, and Ashley Wallis finished with 10.
WKU returns home Sunday to host Florida International at 2 p.m. (CST) at E.A. Diddle Arena. The Lady Toppers will be assisting the Bowling Green-Warren County Humane Society that day with the Critter Classic. Any fans bringing a bottle of bleach, wipes, or bag of clay cat litter to Sunday’s game will receive a voucher for free admission to the game.