New Orleans, La. — The Western Kentucky University women’s basketball team overcame a second-half charge by New Orleans, and got a double-double effort from Crystal Kelly to remain perfect in Sun Belt Conference play with a 75-64 win over Privateers Thursday evening at the Human Performance Center.
The win improved WKU to 15-5 overall and 8-0 in the conference, while UNO fell to 9-10 and saw their SBC record fall to 3-5.
The Lady Toppers overcame 26 turnovers in the contest, and owned the boards as they outrebounded New Orleans 40-16 — finishing the game with 15 offensive boards.
After leading by 11 at the break, the Lady Toppers turned the ball over on their first three possessions of the second half as UNO quickly cut the lead down to seven. WKU was able to push the lead back to 11 points on a Kelly three-point play, but saw Le’Della English score eight unanswered points for UNO to cut the lead to 49-46 with 14:06 still to play.
Charlotte Marshall stopped the bleeding with a three-point play on the next possession, but saw New Orleans get as close as four on two occasions before the midway point of the half. A pair of Arnika Brown free throws at the 12:03 mark sparked a 7-0 run that pushed the Lady Topper lead to 61-50 as Kelly scored five unanswered.
The Lady Toppers remained in front the rest of the way, but the Privateers again made a run to make it a 63-59 game after a pair of Talishia Young free throws with 5:32 remaining. Kenzie Rich answered with a three that sparked another run of seven unanswered points as WKU again pushed its lead into double figures with 2:39 to go. In fact, the Lady Toppers held UNO to just three field goals in the final 14:06 of the game — with two of those coming in the final 1:23. After an English jumper cut the lead to seven points with 1:06 remaining, Kelly connected on her final two layups of the game to stretch the final margin back out to 11.
The Lady Toppers trailed for much of the first 10 minutes of the contest, and New Orleans were able to jump out to a quick 10-4 lead in the first 4:28 of the contest. That would be UNO’s largest lead of the period, however, as WKU was able to chip away and tie the game at 17-17 on an Arnika Brown jumper with 10:40 on the clock.
That shot came in the middle of an 11-0 Lady Topper run as they held the Privateers scoreless for almost six minutes, opening up a 24-17 lead on a Dominique Duck layup at the 7:56 mark. UNO got four straight points to cut the lead down to three, but back-to-back three pointers by Marshall and Rich extended the Lady Topper lead to 30-21 with 4:25 remaining before intermission. UNO would again get back within six in the final two minutes of the period, but Rich scored the final five points of the half — including her third three of the period with 11 seconds remaining — to send WKU to the locker room with a 39-28 lead.
For the game, Kelly finished the night with a game-high 29 points, going 13-for-14 at the free throw line. She also accounted for 11 of WKU’s rebounds, while Arnika Brown added 10 rebounds. Rich finished the night with 16 points, while Marshall added 10. English finished with 26 points to lead the Privateers.
WKU will return to Diddle Arena to open a three-game homestand on Saturday, hosting Arkansas State at 7 p.m. (CST).