Bowling Green, Ky. — Arnika Brown finished with a career-high 27 points and 17 rebounds to pace four Lady Toppers in double figures as the Western Kentucky University women’s basketball team opened the 2008-09 season with a 95-78 win over Murray State Friday night at E.A. Diddle Arena.
"We’re so excited to get our season started with a win. I’m really pleased with the effort from our basketball team tonight," said Lady Topper head coach Mary Taylor Cowles. "We still see some weakness we need to get corrected, but there are a lot of positives we can take from tonight, and benefit from what we’ll learn from the game film."
After WKU held a five-point lead at intermission, the Racers scored six of the first seven points of the second half to tie the game at 42-42. However, WKU quickly regained the lead on a Teranie Thomas layup, and was able to remain in front for the rest of the contest. In fact, after a pair of Ashley Haynes free throws cut the Lady Topper advantage to 46-44 with 16:37 to play, WKU scored 17 of the next 24 points to open up a 63-51 lead after a Hope Brown three.
Murray State was again able to pull with six points with just over seven minutes remaining, but WKU used a 10-1 run to pull back out to a 15-point advantage, and kept the lead in double figures the rest of the way.
"Murray State is a very confident basketball team coming off an OVC championship and an NCAA Tournament appearance last season. With the talent they have, they will do a lot of good things this season," said Cowles. "What I’m most pleased with was the poise and composure our young ladies kept throughout the game when they made runs at us."
The Lady Toppers committed just nine turnovers in the contest — only two of which came from the point guard position. They also shot 51.5 percent from the field for the game, and outrebounded Murray State 41-26.
WKU found itself playing from behind in the opening minutes of the contest, but pulled even at the 13:06 mark when a Dominique Duck layup made it an 11-11 score. That basket came near the beginning of a 13-2 Lady Topper run as they opened up a 22-13 lead on a layup by Arnika Brown midway through the period.
The Lady Toppers took their largest lead of the half when a Teranie Thomas layup made it 32-20 with 7:06 remaining before halftime, but Ashley Hayes — who went into the locker room with a game-high 18 points at intermission — took over to bring the Racers back into the game. Hayes scored 12 of Murray State’s 14 points during a stretch late in the period to make it a 41-34 score with 1:24 on the clock. In fact, the Racers scored seven of the final nine to make it a 41-36 game at intermission.
Both teams shot better than 50 percent from the floor in the first half, with Murray State connecting on 15 of 27 (55.6%) and WKU 17 of 33 (51.5%). Eight different Lady Toppers scored in the opening 20 minutes, with Duck leading the way with 12 points.
For the game, Duck finished with 17 points and eight rebounds to compliment Brown’s career-high performance. Amy McNear added 13 points and six assists, while Hope Brown finished with 12 points off the bench. Hayes led the Racers with a game-high 31 points, while Amber Guffey finished with 23.
WKU will have little time to rest before getting back to action on Sunday when it hosts #12 Vanderbilt at 2 p.m. (CST) at Diddle Arena.