WKU Women’s Basketball: Lady Tops clinch 4-seed with 67-56 senior night win against Middle Tennessee

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. – In the 74th edition of the top rivalry in program history, WKU led nearly wire-to-wire and split the season series against Middle Tennessee inside E.A. Diddle Arena on Thursday evening, closing the regular season with a 67-56 victory over the Blue Raiders on Senior Night to secure a first-round bye in next week’s C-USA Tournament.

Sidnee Bopp, Kayla Smith and Jae’Lisa Allen were honored in a special postgame ceremony as part of WKU’s Senior Night festivities for their contributions to the program over the last four seasons.

Dee Givens led a quartet of Lady Toppers (17-13, 11-5 C-USA) in double figures on the night, finishing with a team-best 16 points. She was joined by Whitney Creech (15), Raneem Elgedawy (14) and Meral Abdelgawad (10) in the double-digit scoring column as Alexis Brewer also pitched in nine points.

Creech had a strong all-around game, adding four assists and a steal with no turnovers in 38 minutes to her 15 points, just one shy of her season-high mark. Elgedawy also fell just short of a double-double with a game-best eight boards on the night.

As a team, WKU shot 50 percent (26-of-52) from the floor and finished 5-of-15 (33.3 percent) from the three-point line.

Alex Johnson led Middle Tennessee (20-9, 11-5 C-USA) with 17 points in her final regular season game in the rivalry, and Jordan Majors nearly collected a double-double with 10 points and eight rebounds. Middle Tennessee was held to just 41.7 percent shooting (20-of-48) by a stout Lady Topper defense and notched just nine points in the fourth quarter as WKU took control of the contest.

Despite the Blue Raiders grabbing an early lead, WKU fired off a 12-2 run spanning four and a half minutes to seize control of the game midway through the first quarter. Four different Lady Toppers scored during the stretch, keyed by five points from Givens to help build the early 14-6 advantage.

WKU maintained its edge and opened the second quarter with five straight points, including Givens’ second triple of the night, to push the lead to double digits for the first time, 21-10, at the 8:48 mark. Middle Tennessee was able to cut back into the lead with a 5-0 run before the Lady Toppers called timeout to reorganize their defense.

Out of the timeout, WKU again pushed its lead to double digits on two different occasions before the Blue Raiders cut the deficit back to five points. At the first-half buzzer, however, Creech knocked down a jumper from the right side to send WKU into the locker room with a 37-30 lead.

After Middle Tennessee trimmed the lead to five points early in the third frame, WKU quickly rebuilt a nine-point lead on a jumper by Elgedawy followed by a three-point play from Creech with 6:51 on the clock. From there, the Blue Raiders scored 11 of the final 17 points of the quarter, cutting the deficit to just two points on one occasion. Anna Jones knocked down a right-wing triple with just over a minute remaining to cut WKU’s lead to 49-47 before Creech struck again at the buzzer, pulling up from the lane to give the Lady Toppers a 51-47 lead entering the final quarter.

The game’s decisive run came as WKU opened the fourth quarter with nine unanswered points to put the game out of reach. Givens poured in four points during the run, and Abdelgawad capped the burst with a three-pointer with 7:36 remaining to build a 13-point, 60-47 advantage over Middle Tennessee.

Down the stretch, WKU’s defense did not allow the Blue Raiders to get back within single digits the rest of the way en route to the 67-56 victory.