Springfield, Mo. — Four Lady Toppers scored in double figures — including 21 points from Kenzie Rich and 20 from Arnika Brown — as the Western Kentucky University women’s basketball team held off Missouri State for a 77-70 win Sunday afternoon at the JQH Arena.
The win was the third straight for WKU as it improved to 6-2 on the season. The Lady Bears fell to 1-6.
"We certainly found a way to win today, and did so in a very tough environment," said Lady Topper head coach Mary Taylor Cowles, referring to the 4,177 fans in attendance. "This was another great learning experience for our basketball team. I’m really proud of the way we kept our composure in the second half."
Leading by just one point at intermission, the teams traded one-point leads five times in the opening minutes of the second half. However, a three-point play by Casey Garrison gave the Lady Bears a 47-43 lead less than three minutes into the period.
WKU responded with a 12-2 run, however, as it opened up a six-point lead with 14:30 remaining. Again, MSU responded, erasing that deficit to grab a three-point lead midway through the half.
Again the two teams traded one-point leads, but it was back-to-back threes by Rich with less than five minutes remaining that gave the Lady Toppers a 72-65 lead. That proved to be the cushion the Lady Toppers needed as they built an eight-point lead late in the game.
Both teams shot 44 percent from the field in the first half, but it was Garrison that carried Missouri State, scoring 22 of the Lady Bears’ 38 first-half points. MSU held an early five-point lead when one of Garrison’s four first-half threes made it a 10-5 score early. WKU came back to tie the game at 10-10, but did not claim its first lead until an Arnika Brown free throw made it a 17-16 game seven minutes in.
The Lady Toppers led by no more than three at any point in the period, as the half saw seven ties and seven lead changes. In fact, four of those lead changes came in the final five minutes of the half. Dominique Duck dropped in her tenth point of the half to give WKU a 39-36 lead with 26 seconds on the clock, but Garrison closed out her impressive half with a pair of free throws in the closing seconds to cut the Lady Topper advantage to 39-38 at intermission.
All five starters provided the scoring for WKU, as Duck and Amy McNear joined Rich and Brown in double figures with 15 and 13, respectively, while Jessica Magley added eight points. Garrison paced the Lady Bears with a game-high 33 points.
The Lady Toppers will take a 10-day break from action for semester final exams, then return to the court on Dec. 17 when they open Sun Belt Conference action at South Alabama.