Tashia Brown scored a game-high 25 points and was one of four Lady Topper players in double figures as WKU led nearly wire-to-wire in Saturday afternoon’s 2018 C-USA Tournament championship game, downing UAB, 72-57, inside The Ford Center at The Star to repeat as C-USA champions.
WKU claimed its second straight C-USA Tournament championship and its third in four seasons as a member of the league. Overall, the Lady Toppers are guaranteed to make their 20th NCAA Tournament appearance in program history when the bracket is announced on Monday evening at 6 p.m. (CT); WKU is also just the second school in C-USA history to repeat as tournament champions, joining Tulane who captured three straight from 1999-2001.=
Whitney Creech turned in one of her best performances since arriving on The Hill, notching 16 points, four rebounds and four assists while manning the point guard spot for the Lady Toppers. Raneem Elgedawy (11 points) and Ivy Brown (11) also reached double figures for WKU, and Ivy Brown tallied her second straight double-double with a game-high 12 rebounds.
Tashia Brown, Ivy Brown and Creech were named to the 2018 C-USA All-Tournament Team, and Tashia Brown was named the C-USA Tournament Most Outstanding Player, joining former teammates Alexis Govan (2015) and Kendall Noble (2017) to claim the prestigious honor.
Rachael Childress led the way for UAB with 16 points and was joined in double figures by Katelynn Thomas (13) and Deanna Kuzmanic (11).
After falling to the Blazers in Birmingham, Ala., on Jan. 13, the Lady Toppers got revenge by holding UAB to just 34.9 percent shooting (22-of-63) from the floor and a 7-of-25 mark (28 percent) from beyond the arc. On the day, WKU finished 45.8 percent (27-of-59) from the floor and was 16-of-19 (84.2 percent) from the charity stripe to seal the victory.
Both sides went basket-for-basket over the opening two and a half minutes of the game before a stretch of five unanswered for the Lady Toppers in under a minute put WKU up 9-4. Elgedawy netted three points during the quick run and Ivy Brown added an early layup to put together the first substantial lead of the afternoon.
WKU’s lead grew to double digits for the first time on an Ivy Brown three-pointer with 5:09 to play. UAB climbed back within four points, but another late three-pointer from Sidnee Bopp with 28 seconds left on the clock gave the Lady Toppers a 22-15 edge after the first 10 minutes.
In the second frame, UAB twice cut its deficit to three points, first after a 5-0 run that ended with a Childress triple with 7:39 on the clock, and again on Thomas’ layup less than one minute later. Despite closing within one possession, the Lady Toppers did not allow the Blazers to take the lead, extending the edge back to nine points, 42-33, at the halftime break after Tashia Brown’s buzzer-beating jumper.
Leading 48-38 midway through the third quarter, WKU allowed nine unanswered points by UAB to cut the gap to just one point. Lea Kerstein kicked off the Blazers’ run with a triple, and Angela Vendrell bookended the burst with another three-pointer to make it 48-47 in favor of the Lady Toppers.
Undeterred by the quick run, WKU used seven unanswered points of its own to surge back to an eight-point lead. Tashia Brown scored all seven points for the Lady Toppers, and a late free throw by the Blazers sent WKU into the final quarter of play with a 55-48 lead.
Over the final 10 minutes, WKU allowed the Blazers within single digits just twice and built a commanding lead of as many as 17 points with just over three minutes remaining. The Lady Toppers held strong down the stretch to claim their second straight C-USA Tournament championship with the 72-57 victory.
A quick burst of four unanswered points pulled North Texas within seven points, 58-51, at the midway point of the final quarter, but WKU responded with five straight points of its own to restore its double-digit lead that the Lady Toppers would not relinquish down the stretch as they claimed the 77-61 decision.