BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKo) --- In a game that featured 14 ties and 10 lead changes, WKU dropped an 86-83 decision against Ball State inside E.A. Diddle Arena on Sunday evening as its three-pointer at the buzzer was just off the mark.
The Lady Toppers (5-7) fought back from nine points down with one minute left to make it a one-possession game, but fell just short in their frantic comeback attempt as their three-game winning streak was snapped.
“We should’ve been able to win this game and walk out of here and learn some other points to the game. The positive is, we got a lot of good experience down the stretch about how to use timeouts, how to advance the ball, how to take plays from the board, how to understand how to guard and then foul,” Head Coach Greg Collins said. “We even gambled, when we knew Ball State was out of timeouts, we gambled and put both bigs up on the ball and we had a chance for a steal right there, but it just didn’t happen.”
Dee Givens and Alexis Brewer led the way for WKU with 19 points apiece and were joined in double figures by Arame Niang (13) and Raneem Elgedawy (12). Elgedawy tallied a team-best seven rebounds, while Whitney Creech dished out a game-high five assists on the night.
As a team, WKU was 29-of-56 (51.8 percent) from the floor, but gave up 24-of-45 (53.3 percent) shooting to the Cardinals. Ball State (3-7) reached the free throw line 40 times, knocking down 31 of those chances to fend off the WKU comeback attempt.
Oshlynn Brown had a double-double for the Cardinals with 25 points and 10 rebounds, and Maliah Howard-Bass added 17 points. Jasmin Samz (12) and Thelma Dis Agustsdottir (10) rounded out the Ball State players in double figures.
Neither side could gain much separation early, playing to a 10-10 draw through the first five and a half minutes of action. Buoyed by a pair of three-pointers, however, Ball State used an 8-0 run to build its largest lead of the game to that point over the next three minutes. Howard-Bass and Dis Agustsdottir knocked down the triples for the Cardinals to go up 18-10.
WKU fired right back with nine unanswered points of its own spanning into the second quarter. Four different Lady Toppers scored during the run, which was keyed by a three-point play from Niang with 35 seconds remaining the first frame. A free throw from Meral Abdelgawad early in the second quarter put the Lady Toppers back in front, 19-18.
Knotted up again at 25-25, the Cardinals again scored eight straight points before an 11-2 run by WKU erased the deficit. Givens’ three-point play and a free throw from Creech gave the Lady Toppers a one-point edge with 44 seconds to play, but Ball State used three free throws in the closing seconds to carry a 38-37 lead into the halftime break.
Elgedawy came out of the locker room and knocked down her first two layups, and Brewer added a three-pointer as the Lady Toppers scored the first seven points out of the gate to take a 44-38 lead with 7:55 on the clock.
Much like the first half, however, another long run put Ball State back in front. The Cardinals tallied seven straight points as part of a larger 13-2 run over a three and a half minute span, and Brown’s layup at the 4:31 mark gave the visitors a 51-46 lead.
Back-to-back jumpers from Niang ended the quarter and brought the two sides level at 55-55 heading into the final quarter of play.
Ball State pushed its lead to as many as nine points with just over one minute to play before a 9-2 WKU run brought the Lady Toppers within two points, 81-79, with 26 seconds on the clock. Ball State rebuilt a four-point lead, but a layup from Givens and two free throws from Elgedawy cut the deficit back to two on each occasion.
After a split pair of free throws by the Cardinals, WKU gained possession down 86-83 with five seconds to play. The Lady Toppers held the ball for a final shot, a good look from the left corner for a three-pointer by Niang, but the redshirt sophomore could not get the shot to fall as time expired.
“There’s a lot of teaching points in here and we’ll get a lot of these things on the film and get ready for the next game,” Collins said.
With Sunday’s game in the books, WKU will have just one more outing before the holiday break: a trip that sees the Lady Toppers head north to No. 2/2 Notre Dame for a 6 p.m. (CT) tipoff on Wednesday evening. The reigning national champions, Notre Dame has dropped only one game this season, an 89-71 defeat against Connecticut on Dec. 2 in the Jimmy V Classic. Last year, WKU battled close with the Fighting Irish, at one point cutting the deficit to three points in the third quarter, before falling, 78-65, inside Diddle.