ATHENS, OH (WBKO) --- Lady Topper Basketball’s 2018-19 season came to a close in the Women’s National Invitation Tournament (WNIT) Round of 16 on Thursday evening in a 68-60 setback against Ohio inside the Ohio Convocation Center.
Alexis Brewer led the way for the Lady Toppers (20-15) with 14 points, 12 of which came on 4-of-5 shooting from beyond the arc. Whitney Creech closed out her junior season with another strong effort, tallying 13 points and dishing out a game-high six assists, and both Dee Givens (11) and Raneem Elgedawy (11) rounded out the WKU contingent in double figures for scoring.
As a team, WKU shot 40.7 percent (22-of-54) for the game and was 6-for-15 (40 percent) from three-point range. The Lady Toppers limited a dangerous Ohio outside attack to just 7-for-26 shooting (26.9 percent) from outside the arc.
WKU ends its 2018-19 campaign with 20 wins for the seventh straight season, one of just 18 Division I programs with an active streak of at least seven 20-win campaigns. In Head Coach Greg Collins’ first year at the helm, Collins guided the Lady Toppers to a tie for third place in the C-USA regular season standings, outperforming their preseason expectations, and won three postseasons contests, downing Old Dominion in the C-USA Tournament before knocking off Miami (Ohio) and Morehead State in the WNIT.
Cierra Hooks led all scorers with 21 points for the Bobcats (30-5) and was joined in double figures by Amani Burke (15), Gabby Burris (12) and Erica Johnson (11). Burris also added 11 rebounds to finish with a double-double. Ohio finished the night 25-of-55 (45.5 percent) from the field and was 11-of-15 (73.3 percent) from the free throw line.
Two three-pointers in the opening five minutes from Brewer paced the Lady Toppers to an early lead, with her second triple breaking a tie and handing WKU an 8-5 advantage at the 5:14 mark. Ohio fired back with four straight points, but a layup from Elgedawy reestablished a one-point edge for the Lady Toppers just a minute later.
From there, the Bobcats finished the opening quarter on a 10-4 run, sparked by triples from Dominique Doseck and Olivia Bower, with the latter’s three-pointer the final basket of the frame that pushed the Ohio lead to 19-12 after the opening 10 minutes.
Doseck built a double-digit lead for the Bobcats by opening the second quarter with another three-pointer, but the Lady Toppers battled their way back into the game with 10 straight points as part of a larger 16-2 run. Four different Lady Toppers scored during the five-minute scoring stretch, with Givens and Elgedawy each tallying five points apiece as WKU surged to a 28-24 lead on Creech’s pull-up with 3:29 to play before the halftime break.
Both sides matched one another nearly basket-for-basket down the stretch, including Arame Niang’s three-pointer on WKU’s final possession of the frame. Ultimately, Burke’s cutting layup at the buzzer gave the Bobcats a slim 32-31 lead entering the locker room.
Ohio pushed the lead to as many as nine points late in the third quarter after a triple by Burke with 2:16 on the clock, but the Lady Toppers again rallied back as Givens knocked down a three-pointer of her own and Creech followed with a driving layup on consecutive possessions, cutting the Bobcats’ lead to just four points with under a minute left in the frame.
Brewer struck from three-point range yet again to open the fourth quarter after a Jae’Lisa Allen offensive board, but WKU was unable to close the gap any further over the final nine minutes. Though Ohio’s lead grew to as many as 11 points, the Lady Toppers scored the game’s final three points to cut the gap back to single digits, eventually falling by the final 68-60 scoreline.