BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) --- Dee Givens and Raneem Elgedawy each posted career-highs in points and WKU led nearly wire-to-wire in a 76-58 victory over Charlotte inside E.A. Diddle Arena on Thursday evening in the C-USA regular season opener for both teams.
Givens tallied 26 points to lead all scorers, while Elgedawy poured in 23 points for the Lady Toppers (7-8, 1-0 C-USA), who captured their 20th consecutive victory over a conference foe at home. WKU punished Charlotte’s mistakes, turning 17 giveaways by the 49ers into 21 points while also posting an 18-7 advantage in the fast-break scoring category.
Sidnee Bopp also had a well-balanced night for the Lady Toppers. In 30 minutes of action, the senior totaled three points, a career-best seven rebounds and four assists without any turnovers. Bopp’s work protecting the ball helped limit WKU to only seven turnovers on the night, its fewest in a single game this season.
As a team, WKU shot 50.9 percent (29-of-57) from the floor for the night and connected on six of its 15 three-pointers.
“The effort has been good, I think tonight was execution. I felt like the intensity was good, the effort was good, the communication on the floor was way better than it has been. They were really talking to each other and fixing problems on the court,” Head Coach Greg Collins said. “That’s just playing defense together, that’s team defense. I felt like the biggest reason we played better on defense is because we were working together, we were talking. The effort’s been good, but the execution was way better for three and a half quarters tonight.”
Charlotte (8-5, 0-1 C-USA) was led by 10 points from Octavia Jett-Wilson. WKU limited preseason All-C-USA selection Laia Raventós to just four points and two assists in 24 minutes of action.
Both sides traded early runs over the opening seven minutes, with WKU going up by six points before Charlotte rallied back to tie the contest at 12-12 with an 8-2 run of its own. Triples from Mariah Linney and Jade Phillips keyed the stretch for the 49ers to erase the early two-possession lead for the Lady Toppers.
WKU broke the game open to start the second quarter, scoring the first 10 points of the frame to surge to a 13-point advantage. Five different Lady Toppers scored during the run, including a three-point play by Whitney Creech and a layup from Givens to cap the run at the 6:14 mark, giving WKU a 30-17 lead.
Although Charlotte managed to whittle the lead back to single digits over the closing minutes of the opening half, but a Sherry Porter jumper at the buzzer heading into the locker room rebuilt the double digit lead and sent WKU into the halftime break with a 42-32 edge.
The 49ers were unable to close the gap back to single digits over the final 20 minutes. A layup from Maddie Moore cut WKU’s lead back to 10 points at the 8:38 mark of the third quarter, but a run of seven straight points by the Lady Toppers put WKU handily back in front.
“It was great. I know there were three plays back to back where we got stops. We were getting hype on the floor, I saw the bench getting hype,” Bopp said. “Defense leads to our offense, it really helps us be able to score. For us to come out and play defense like that really helped.”
In the final quarter, WKU had a lead of 20 or more points for the entire frame until Lyrissa Deans’ jumper in the closing seconds helped Charlotte to reach the final scoreline of 76-58.
With its C-USA regular season opener in the books, WKU will close out its first week of C-USA play on Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m. against Old Dominion inside Diddle Arena. The Lady Toppers own a perfect 8-0 record against the Lady Monarchs since joining C-USA, with four of those wins coming on their home court. WKU’s margin of victory in those eight wins has averaged 10 points per contest.