Richmond, Ky. — A 28-3 run that stretched from the late minutes of the first half into the first eight minutes of the second half provided the breathing room the Western Kentucky University women’s basketball team needed to pull away and pick up an 80-54 win over Eastern Kentucky Sunday afternoon at McBrayer Arena.
The Lady Toppers improved to 3-1 with the victory in the first game with EKU since the 1991-92 season. The Colonels fell to 2-2 with the loss.
The Lady Topper found themselves trailing by two when Kayla Drake gave EKU its first lead of the game at 26-24 with 2:40 remaining in the opening half, but WKU responded to score the final seven points of the half to take a 31-26 lead into intermission when Hope Brown knocked down a three as time expired.
That momentum carried over after halftime as the Lady Toppers scored 21 of the first 24 points of the second half to pull out to a 52-29 lead with 11:14 remaining in the contest as Kenzie Rich drained threes on back-to-back possessions.
"I thought we came out and played really strong at the tip, but got sloppy and really let Eastern make a run at us there late in the period," said Lady Topper head coach Mary Taylor Cowles. "We had a long talk at halftime, and really got refocused to put together a solid second half."
The Lady Toppers went on to shoot 43.8 percent from the field in the second half, while limiting the Colonels to just 20 percent from the floor on 8-for-40 shooting. EKU was able to put together a run to get within 14 when a pair of Drake free throws made it 55-41 with 7:38 remaining, but WKU was able to push the lead back above 20 and keep it there the rest of the game.
WKU got a spark from its bench, outscoring the Colonel reserves 42-4. A pair of Lady Toppers scored in double figures off the bench, as Jasmine Johnson recorded a season-high 14 points to go along with six rebounds and six blocks. Hope Brown also finished with 13, connecting on 6-of-7 at the free throw line. Arnika Brown led the Lady Toppers with 16 points and a game-high 13 rebounds for her third double-double in four games.
The unfamiliar surroundings didn’t seem to effect WKU at the onset, as it scored the first seven points, and 10 of the first 12 to open up a 10-2 lead on a Arnika Brown three-point play less than four minutes into the game. During that early offensive stretch, Dominique Duck connected on a three-point play to move her over 1,000 career points.
Despite the early lead, the Lady Toppers were unable to shake EKU, as the Colonels were able to keep the deficit between three and seven points for most of the period. However, it was a 10-1 run by Eastern Kentucky that gave it a two-point lead before WKU used its big run to open up the double-digit lead.
Drake led the Colonels in scoring with a game-high 21 points. Colette Cole and Cherie White added 14 and 10, respectively, as the Lady Topper defense was able to limit EKU to just 27.1 percent shooting for the game.
WKU returns home Friday (Nov. 28) when it hosts nationally-ranked Duke at 7 p.m. (CST) in a "Black Out" at E.A. Diddle Arena.