Bowling Green, Ky. — Crystal Kelly and Charlotte Marshall each posted double-doubles, and four players finished in double figures as the Western Kentucky University women’s basketball team posted its sixth straight win and stayed perfect in Sun Belt Conference play with an 84-53 win over Florida International Sunday afternoon at E.A. Diddle Arena.
WKU moved to 12-5 and 5-0 in the Sun Belt, while FIU fell to 6-10 and 2-3 in the league.
“We’re just real happy to get this win and keep moving forward with our conference season,” said Lady Topper head coach Mary Taylor Cowles. “I felt like our guard play just took control of the game from the beginning on both ends of the court. If we can get our guards and our post all clicking at the same time, we could be in for some real good basketball moving forward.”
Starting point guard Amy McNear scored all eight of her points in the first half, and also led the way with a season-high five assists and a pair of steals. Hope Brown also added 13 points off the bench — her highest scoring output since scoring 14 in the season opener.
The Lady Toppers shot 48.6 percent in the first half, but saw Florida International make it an 8-7 game early on thanks to five straight points by Monika Bosilj. However, a pair of Kelly free throws sparked a 10-0 WKU run as it was able to open up a 18-7 lead thanks to a Brown free throw with 13:08 to go in the half.
WKU was able to double-up the Golden Panthers when a jumper by Amy McNear at the 8:10 mark made it 30-15. That shot sparked another run — this time seeing the Lady Toppers score 13 of 15 points to pull out to a 41-17 advantage on a layup by Arnika Brown with 3:51 remaining. WKU would again open up a 24-point lead when a Dominique Duck layup made it 45-21 with 2:14 remaining, but FIU scored the final seven points of the half to cut the lead to 45-28 at intermission.
The Lady Toppers were unable to pull away in the opening minutes of the second half as the Golden Panthers cut the lead down to 11 points when a pair of Bosilj free throws made it a 57-46 game with 13:29 remaining. However, WKU scored nine unanswered to pull out to a 66-46 lead on a Kelly layup midway through the half.
FIU shot just 25 percent from the field in the second half, posting only eight field goals in the period. In fact, the Golden Panthers only connected on two shots from the floor in the final 13:49 of the contest. That drought allowed the Lady Toppers to close the game on a 17-3 run over the final 6:35 to pick up the 31-point victory. It marked the first time WKU has won by at least 30 points since a 95-56 win over IUPUI on Jan. 2, 2007.
Kelly once again led the way for the Lady Toppers as she dropped in a game-high 24 points, and tied a career high with 16 rebounds. Marshall posted her second double-double of the year with 11 points and 11 rebounds, while Duck and Hope Brown also finished in double figures with 15 and 13, respectively. LaQuetta Ferguson paced three Golden Panthers in double figures with 16 points.
WKU held a 58-34 advantage on the boards, pulling down 23 offensive rebounds which led to 21 second-chance points. The Lady Toppers also controlled the inside, scoring 60 points in the paint compared to 14 for Florida International.
The Lady Toppers remain at home as they host Florida Atlantic at 7 p.m. (CST) on Thursday (Jan. 17).