BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) --- WKU led by as many as 21 points in the third quarter on Saturday afternoon before holding off a furious Louisiana Tech rally in the closing minutes for an 81-76 victory inside E.A. Diddle Arena.
Dee Givens and Raneem Elgedawy each finished with 18 points for the Lady Toppers (12-9, 6-1 C-USA), with Elgedawy scoring half of her points in the final quarter to help keep the Lady Techsters (10-11, 2-6 C-USA) at bay. Despite a game-high 23 points from Kierra Anthony, the nation’s fifth-leading scorer, WKU was able to stifle the Lady Techsters’ offense in the final two minutes for the win.
Sherry Porter and Meral Abdelgawad joined Givens and Elgedawy in double figures as the duo scored 14 points apiece on the day. Elgedawy also fell just shy of a double-double for the second straight game, recording seven rebounds and adding four steals.
WKU finished 25-of-55 (45.5 percent) from the floor and knocked down six of its 16 shots (37.5 percent) from beyond the arc, but was held without a three-pointer in the second half.
Louisiana Tech was led by Anthony’s aforementioned 23 points, with Raizel Guinto adding 19 points on 6-of-9 shooting from three-point range. The Lady Techsters had 17 turnovers, which WKU turned into 26 points on the afternoon.
“I like the first half focus on the defensive boards, that is what we've been trying to make sure we do a better job of. I think we gave up two offensive rebounds in the first half, and I think in the first three minutes of the third quarter, we gave up five offensive rebounds. So, that is why you saw some substitutions. They're going to learn they're going to box out and rebound, or they're not going to play,” Head Coach Greg Collins said. “We were trying to address that issue, and we just missed some shots. When you give up those offensive rebounds, they get second chance opportunities. Whether it's an immediate put-back or not, you've still have to guard two possessions. Teams that get two shots at the goal, it's hard to match them one for two.”
Despite allowing Louisiana Tech to jump out to an early two-point lead, WKU responded in a big way over the two minutes, using 10 unanswered points to surge to a 14-6 advantage. Three-pointers from Givens and Abdelgawad keyed the early run for the Lady Toppers, and Porter’s free throws at the 5:36 mark capped the stretch.
After the Lady Techsters closed back within six points just over a minute into the second quarter, the Lady Toppers punched back with another long unanswered run, this time 11 straight points, to seize control of the game. A pair of triples again, this time from Alexis Brewer and Terri Smith, provided the majority of the run, and Porter provided a pair of free throws with 5:53 to play until the half to push WKU’s lead to 34-17.
Louisiana Tech managed to cut its deficit to 11 points but could get no closer before the break, as WKU carried a 53-35 advantage into the locker room.
WKU pushed its lead even further to begin the third quarter, going up 21 points on a fast-break layup by Porter at the 7:40 mark. That would be the Lady Toppers’ largest lead of the game, however, as the Lady Techsters fired off a 14-2 run and held WKU scoreless over the final six and a half minutes of the quarter. Anthony’s jumper with just over two minutes remaining was the final basket of the frame as Louisiana Tech cut the deficit to just nine, 59-50.
The Lady Toppers were able to fend off the Lady Techster run with two free throws from Abdelgawad to start the fourth quarter and largely maintained its double-digit lead threw the first five minutes of the frame. From that point, however, Louisiana Tech used another run, this time 9-2, to make it a one-possession game with 2:30 to play. Guinto played a key role in the run, punctuating it with a pair of three pointers.
That would be the closest that WKU would allow the Lady Techsters, however. Elgedawy scored the next three points for the Lady Toppers to halt the Louisiana Tech rally, and WKU held on for the 81-76 victory.
The Lady Toppers will be back in action next Thursday and Saturday on the road as they make the long trip to west Texas to face UTSA and UTEP. WKU will be looking for its first-ever win at UTSA on Thursday at 11 a.m. for the Roadrunners’ Education Day game, while the Lady Toppers will be seeking to avenge an 80-75 loss at UTEP last season that cost WKU a share of the C-USA regular season championship next Saturday at 2 p.m. (CT).