Bowling Green, Ky. — With her 28-point effort Sunday afternoon against Hofstra, Western Kentucky University junior forward Crystal Kelly broke the WKU single-season scoring mark. She will have a chance to stretch that record out even more as the Lady Toppers advanced to the semifinals of the 2007 Women’s National Invitation Tournament with a 72-54 win over the Pride Sunday afternoon at E.A. Diddle Arena.
WKU (23-8) will take its tournament run on the road as it will travel to Wisconsin for a semifinal match with the Badgers Wednesday at 7 p.m. (CDT). This is the second straight year the Lady Toppers have reached the WNIT semifinals, falling by one in overtime to eventual champion Kansas State last season.
“We’re just really excited to get ourselves to this point against some great competition this week,” said Lady Topper head coach Mary Taylor Cowles. “Today might have been the best overall defensive effort we’ve put together all season, and that’s just really nice to see here in the postseason.”
Kelly actually reached two milestones within two minutes of each other midway through the second half. A jumper at the 9:15 mark pushed her over 2,000 points for her career — making her just the third Lady Topper to reach the mark along with Lillie Mason and Tiffany Porter-Talbert. A jumper in the lane with 7:24 to play gave her 737 points for the season, breaking Natalie Powers’ mark of 736 set during the 2000-01 season.
WKU’s lead was never less than nine points in the second half as the Lady Toppers shot 44.8 percent in the period and went 16-for-22 at the free throw line in the final 20 minutes. Both of Kelly’s milestone baskets gave WKU a 17-point lead, and a three-point play from Dominique Duck pushed the advantage to a game-high 21 points at 71-50 with just 1:40 to play. Hofstra was able to score four of the final five points in the contest, but the outcome was academic as WKU was able to run out the clock and pick up the victory.
Hofstra was able to jump out to an early 4-2 lead three minutes into the game, but a Kenzie Rich steal and layup sparked a 13-0 Lady Topper run that covered nearly six minutes of action as WKU was able to stretch its lead to 15-4 on a Crystal Kelly layup with 10:30 to play in the half.
The scoring drought by the Pride spanned nearly seven minutes before a Lizanne Murphy jumper with 10:18 on the clock cut the lead down to nine. That would be as close as Hofstra would get in the half as three straight points by Tifany Zaragoza stretched the lead out to a half-high 15 (30-15) with just over a minute remaining before halftime. Hofstra got a three from Cigi McCollin in the closing minutes to cut the lead to 30-18 at intermission.
Kelly added 12 rebounds to go with her 28 points for her 13th double-double of the season. That paced three Lady Toppers in double figures as Brianne Brown came off the bench score 13 points and pull down a career-high nine rebounds. Duck also added 11 points. Lana Harshaw posted a double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds to pace Hofstra.