BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) --- Lady Topper Basketball head coach Greg Collins collected his first official victory at the helm of the WKU program as the Red and White held off Southern Illinois’ late comeback to claim an 83-76 win on Spread the Red Education Day. Three Lady Toppers scored in double figures, led by Dee Givens’ 23 for the second consecutive game.
“Southern Illinois didn’t shoot quite as well as Central Michigan did, but some of that credit has to go to our players, our kids doing a better job of rotating and getting out there and challenging those shots,” Collins shared. “It’s one step at a time, they’re learning; it’s a lot more fun to learn after winning than losing so we’re glad we got it finished off.”
WKU is now 1-4 on the season with the victory while Southern Illinois drops to 2-2.
Collins is now 155-52 during his time on staff with the Lady Toppers with win 155 marking his first at the helm of the program.
“Even though you know you’re doing the right things, you know you’ve played some good talent and really good teams and you know that this will pay off down the road,” Collins added of his first win. “You don’t know, we could’ve lost this game today but that doesn’t mean we are doing the wrong things. I still believe in what we are doing, I still believe in our players, we’ve got good kids and it’s just a matter of time before we get it gelled. There’s learning, there’s chemistry, there’s experience, there’s a lot of things that we’ve got to acquire before we become a solid team. It means a lot to me to be part of this rich tradition. It meant a lot to me to be a part of it as an assistant and associate head coach with Coach Heard. You think about the great coaches that have come through here, either as an assistant or head coach, and just to be part of that means a lot.”
Givens 23 points matched her career high set earlier this season at Oklahoma and doubled as a game high from E.A. Diddle Arena. Elgedawy tallied 18 points while grabbing a team-best nine boards. Brewer also finished in double figures after going scoreless in the opening half. The redshirt-junior finished with 10 points, five rebounds and two assists in 28 minutes of action.
WKU went 10-of-14 from long range on the day, including a 6-for-7 performance from Givens. Brewer, Terri Smith and Sidnee Bopp each hit from deep. Bopp hit both treys she attempted.
“It really spreads the floor for us and makes it easier to get to the post,” Bopp said of the team’s hot-shooting performance. “Dee can shoot the lights out, Alexis can, I can, Terry has been shooting really well too. With all of us being able to shoot, everybody’s going to flood towards us and it opens up drives in the post. I’ve had some stuff that set me back but it felt great getting back into my rhythm. Especially that last game, the first game, when I went out there it just felt natural.”
Lady Topper Basketball opened Tuesday morning’s contest on a mission, taking a 5-0 lead less than a minute into the game. Meral Abdelgawad connected on a pair of free throws and Dee Givens followed with a basket from deep. From there, Givens hit another trey to make it 8-2 which became an 11-6 advantage at the media break. Using a 9-0 run, WKU pushed its lead to 22-9 before the Salukis worked their way back with the Red and White leading 28-21 at the end of the frame.
WKU extended its lead into the second quarter with a 13-5 run for a 41-26 lead. Just before the media timeout, Givens connected on another 3 pointer to begin an 8-0 run in favor of the Lady Toppers over a 1:19 span.
Southern Illinois made its first 3-point shot of the day just before the half to make the score 47-31 in favor of the hosts. By that point, WKU had already connected for seven shots from deep. At the half, the Red and White owned a 52-33 advantage thanks to the hot hand of Givens who had 18 points at the break. Raneem Elgedawy was also in double figures with 14 after two quarters.
Out of the halftime break, Southern Illinois cut the Lady Topper lead to single digits at 59-50 before Givens knocked down her sixth triple of the game to push the WKU advantage back to double digits. Moments later, Alexis Brewer picked up five points, scoring for the Lady Toppers on back-to-back possessions to her first points of the game to make it 67-55 with 2:05 to go in the frame.
Ahead 71-57 with just over seven minutes to play, WKU’s lead would drop to just nine at the first media timeout of the quarter. SIU completed the three-point play following the break before both sides would come up empty on the next two possessions. After a WKU defensive stop, Brewer sank a jumper in the lane to give the Lady Toppers a 77-67 lead with four minutes to play.
As Southern Illinois pulled within five at 79-76, WKU called for a timeout to maintain its possession and it paid off as the Salukis would not score for the final 1:45 of the game. Givens made a layup with 27.7 seconds on the clock before Elgedawy closed the scoring with a pair of free throws for the final 83-76 margin of victory.