BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) --- WKU twice nearly erased double-digit leads in the fourth quarter but could not finish off its comeback against UAB inside Bartow Arena on Saturday afternoon, falling 70-63 against the Blazers in a rematch of the 2018 C-USA Tournament championship game.
Runs of 6-0 and 7-0 in the final quarter put the Lady Toppers (14-13, 8-5 C-USA) in position to snap their losing streak, but the Blazers (21-5, 9-4 C-USA) were able to respond with four free throws in the closing seconds to fend off the furious comeback.
Alexis Brewer paced WKU with a game-high 21 points on the afternoon, just one off her season-high mark, and she was joined in double figures by Raneem Elgedawy (17) and Dee Givens (14).
WKU finished 23-of-52 (44.2 percent) from the field and again had a strong afternoon from the free throw line, going 13-of-15 (86.7 percent) from the charity stripe.
Miyah Barnes led the Blazers with 19 points on the day, Deanna Kuzmanic had 17 points and Rachael Childress rounded out the UAB trio in double figures with 14. The Blazers shot 51 percent (26-of-51) for the game and knocked down 10 of their 27 three-pointers (37 percent).
UAB was hot out of the gates, surging to a 10-point lead over the Lady Toppers over the first six minutes of the contest. Two three-pointers by Childress and one apiece from Kuzmanic and Angela Vendrell paced the early run for the Blazers, with Childress’ second triple at the 3:22 mark pushing the UAB advantage to 16-6.
From that point, however, WKU seized control of the final three minutes of the quarter, using an 11-0 run to propel itself into the lead after the opening 10 minutes. Brewer scored nine of the 11 points for the Lady Toppers with two three-pointers and a three-point play as WKU pushed ahead, 17-16, to erase the big early deficit.
The second quarter featured the two sides matching each other nearly shot-for-shot as neither team was able to gain more than a one-possession lead. Brewer had a deep three-pointer at the buzzer for the Lady Toppers but was off the mark, sending the Lady Toppers and Blazers into the locker room knotted up at 33-33.
Four straight points from Elgedawy erased a one-point deficit early in the third quarter, with her pair of free throws giving the Lady Toppers a 41-38 edge. UAB answered back with a 14-2 run that spanned much of the remainder of the quarter, stretching the Blazers’ lead to as many as nine points on Barnes’ triple with 1:17 to play in the frame.
UAB’s lead grew to as many as 11 points early in the fourth quarter before six straight points from the Lady Toppers slashed the deficit to only five points. Baskets from Brewer and Elgedawy and a free throw from Sidnee Bopp brought WKU within 57-52 with 8:12 remaining as the Lady Toppers looked to mount a late rally.
Although the Blazers rebuilt the double-digit advantage, another big run, this time seven unanswered points, made it a one-possession game with just 22 seconds remaining. Givens’ three-pointer cut the Blazers’ lead to 66-63, but the Lady Toppers were unable to finish off the comeback with a defensive stop in the closing seconds as four UAB free throws pushed the game to its final 70-63 scoreline.
WKU will be off for a week before heading to Huntington, W. Va., to square off against Marshall next Saturday afternoon at Noon (CT). Earlier this season, the Lady Toppers knocked off the Thundering Herd inside E.A. Diddle Arena, 85-55, on Jan. 12. In that contest, Dee Givens and Sherry Porter paced WKU with 20 points apiece as the Lady Toppers shot a strong 55.2 percent (32-of-58) from the floor, including 10-of-17 (58.8 percent) from three-point range.