Lady Toppers fall to MTSU in C-USA championship game

Lady Toppers come up short in C-USA title game
Updated: Mar. 11, 2023 at 9:22 PM CST
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BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) - WKU women’s basketball fell, 82-70, in the Conference USA championship game on Saturday to No. 25 Middle Tennessee. The Lady Toppers’ season will continue in the WNIT. The WNIT bracket will be announced on Monday, March 13.

“I told the girls I’m proud of their effort and I’m proud of how hard they’ve played all season and the excitement they bring to Lady Topper Basketball,” said head coach Greg Collins. “As much as this game stinks and we wanted to be in the NCAA Tournament and wanted to be a conference champion, there’s still a lot of positives from this season. We’ll try to find what we can improve from this game and focus on those positives and get ready for the WNIT.”

After an even first quarter, Middle Tennessee exploded for a 32-point second quarter, outscoring the Lady Toppers by 16. WKU outscored the Blue Raider 39-35 in the second half but weren’t able to overcome that deficit set in the second quarter.

“We made a little bit of inroads into it, but we never got a run where we could cut it down to single digits,” said Collins. “That second quarter was a double whammy. They were shooting the ball really well and we were shooting the ball atrociously. That hurt us. We still forced turnovers. We still did a decent job taking care of the ball. The rebounding woes are still present.”

Acacia Hayes led WKU in scoring with 15 points on 5-of-7 shooting from the floor. Aaliyah Pitts added 11 points, connecting on three 3-pointers in the game. Alexis Mead had nine points, five rebounds and four assists. Mya Meredith led the team on the boards, pulling down eight rebounds to go along with five points and three assists.

Pitts was the first to score, knocking down a three just nine seconds into the game after she won the tip. After trading baskets, WKU used a 5-0 run to take a 4-point lead with 6:08 left in the period. The Blue Raiders responded with an 8-0 run to swing it to a 4-point lead in their favor. WKU scored the final four points of the quarter to tie the score, 15-15, at the end of the frame.

Middle Tennessee used an offensive surge in the second quarter to build a 16-point halftime lead, outscoring the Lady Toppers 32-16 in the frame. The Blue Raiders pushed their lead to as much as 22 points in the third quarter, but WKU followed with a 7-0 run in the last two minutes to draw back within 15. Middle Tennessee scored at the buzzer to take a 63-46 lead going into the fourth quarter.

Pitts stopped a 3-point drought in the fourth quarter. WKU had missed 11 straight threes when Pitts connected from beyond the arc at the 9:24 mark. WKU ended the fourth quarter by outscoring Middle Tennessee 12-3.

The Lady Toppers shot just 20.7 percent from 3-point, their lowest percentage since shooting 17.9 percent against Rice on Feb. 18.

WKU notched 11 steals in the game, moving their season total to 383 which is one shy of the school record of 384 set in 2014-15. The Lady Toppers already broke the school record for most threes made in a season. That total is now up to 280.

After starting the season 3-6 in non-conference play, WKU has gone 16-7 since and earned a second-place finish in the regular season and were the C-USA Championship runners-up with no seniors on the roster.

Jaylin Foster and Hayes were named to the five-person C-USA All-Tournament Team. Hayes averaged 13 points, 2.7 assists, 1.3 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game through the tournament. Foster averaged 10.7 points, 4.3 rebounds, 1.3 steals and 1.3 assists per game through the tournament.