Bowling Green, Ky. — Crystal Kelly scored a game-high 32 points and set a Western Kentucky University school record by going 14-for-14 from the free-throw line as the Lady Toppers advanced to the third round of the 2007 Women’s National Invitation Tournament with a 73-57 victory over Minnesota Monday evening at E.A. Diddle Arena.
WKU (21-8) will now advance to host Mississippi State at 7 p.m. (CDT) on Thursday (March 22) in the tournament’s round of 16. It will mark the first-even meeting between the two programs.
Kelly also finished the night 9-for-11 from the field — hitting her first nine shots — and pulled down a game-high nine rebounds. The also tied Carla Bartee (2004 against Memphis) for the most points scored by a Lady Topper in a WNIT game. Brianne Brown joined Kelly in double figures as she tossed in a career-high 13 points off the bench.
“I’m just really proud and happy for our young ladies. Minnesota (17-16) is a very good basketball team,” said Lady Topper head coach Mary Taylor Cowles. “This is a great win for our program and for the Sun Belt Conference. We’re just really happy to still be playing.”
Three Golden Gophers scored in double figures, with Kelly Roysland leading the way with 15 points. Brittany McCoy added 11 and Korinne Campbell came off the bench to score 10 points and pull down nine rebounds.
WKU held Minnesota scoreless for the last 9:24 of the opening half as they scored the final 13 points of the period. The Golden Gophers led by as much as seven early in the game, and held a 21-16 lead after an Ashley Ellis-Milan layup with just under nine-and-a-half minutes to go. Six straight points by Kelly gave WKU its first lead since the opening bucket of the game at 22-21 with 7:11 remaining before halftime. Two straight baskets by Tifany Zaragoza put WKU up five, but both clubs went scoreless for over three minutes until a Cammie Campbell three at the buzzer sent the Lady Toppers to the locker room with a 29-21 lead.
The Gophers dropped in the first four points of the second half to cut the Lady Topper lead to four, but a 7-0 run — capped by a Kelly three-point play — pushed the advantage into double figures for the first time at 36-25 with 17:50 remaining. WKU was able to stay in front the rest of the way, keeping the lead between seven and 11 points before Minnesota went on a run to get within six when an Emily Fox jumper with 8:33 to play.
Kelly knocked down her final two free throws of the night to put WKU up 60-49 with 5:09, and the Lady Toppers kept the advantage in double figures the rest of the game — scoring the final five points to see their largest margin of the contest come at the very end.
This marks the third time in the last four seasons that WKU is one of the final 16 teams left in the WNIT. Tickets for Thursday’s third-round are currently on sale, and can be purchased at the Diddle Arena ticket office or by calling 1-800-5-BIG RED. Fans can also buy tickets online at www.wkusports.com, or at the WKU ticket kiosks at the Greenwood Mall in Bowling Green, Crossroads IGA in Rockfield, or Houchens Market in Glasgow.