Lafayette, La. — The Western Kentucky University women’s basketball team led wire-to-wire Sunday afternoon at Louisiana-Lafayette, but the Ragin’ Cajuns cut that lead down to two points in the second half before WKU exploded late to pick up a 90-74 win at Earl K. Long Gymnasium.
The win was the eighth straight for the Lady Toppers as they improved to 13-5 overall and 7-0 in the Sun Belt. ULL fell to 5-12 and 1-5 in the league.
“The thing that I’m most proud of is the composure this basketball team showed today, especially when they made the run at us in the second half,” said Lady Topper head coach Mary Taylor Cowles. “Obviously in the middle of January we aren’t playing perfect basketball, but when we needed to execute our offense and get stops at the defensive end, our young ladies did what they needed to do to get this victory.”
After leading by 11 at intermission, the Lady Toppers saw Louisiana-Lafayette quickly cut that lead down to single digits. The Cajuns shot 50 percent from the field in the second half to stay in the game, and used a run midway through the period to make it a two-point game when a Jasmine Barnes layup made it 64-62 with eight minutes left.
Charlotte Marshall answered with a three at the other end for the Lady Toppers, and Dominique Duck knocked down a shot to pus the lead back out to seven points less than a minute later. Marshall then capped off the 8-2 run with a three-point play to push the lead back to 72-64 with just over six minutes remaining.
The final five minutes of the contest belonged to the Lady Toppers as Hope Brown scored four unanswered points to spark a run that put the game away. After a layup from Courtney Ratliff again made it an eight-point contest with 4:54 remaining, a Crystal Kelly layup sparked an 10-0 run as WKU pulled out to an 86-60 lead on a Kenzie Rich layup with just under a minute remaining. The teams swapped buckets down the stretch, with Alicia McDaniel getting the final score to cut the final margin to 16 points.
The Lady Toppers stormed out to an early lead as they held ULL scoreless for the first 4:40. WKU scored the first eight points of the contest, and got a three from Rich to close out a 13-2 run to start the contest. The Ragin’ Cajuns got as close as six points on two occasions midway through the half, but could get no closer as a Kelly three-point play at the 7:42 mark of the half sparked a run of nine unanswered points as the Lady Toppers opened up a 36-19 lead with 5:33 left before halftime.
Louisiana-Lafayette scored eight unanswered to close the gap to nine, but the teams traded baskets down the stretch and Kelly knocked down a layup as time expired to send WKU to the locker room with a 42-31 lead.
Rebounding was the difference in the first half as the Lady Toppers held a 22-10 advantage on the glass. In fact, WKU finished the half with more offensive rebounds than defensive, as it recorded 12 offensive boards.
For the game, Kelly led all scorers with 25 points, and also tied Marshall for game-high rebounding honors with eight. Rich dropped in 20 points — 10 in each half — while Duck and Marshall finished with 12 and 11, respectively. As a team, the Lady Toppers shot 56.7 percent from the field, marking the third time in the past four games that they have shot better than 50 percent from the field. WKU also owned the glass, holding a 38-24 advantage and pulling down 15 offensive rebounds. For the Cajuns, Ratliff led the way with 24 points, with Sonora Edwards dropping in 17 and McDaniel finishing with 13.
The Lady Toppers will conclude their two-game roadtrip on Thursday (Jan. 24) when they visit New Orleans for a 7 p.m. (CST) game at the Human Performance Center.