Hilltopper Hysteria

WKU guard Sherry Porter shoots while guarded by WKU forward Raneem Elgedawy during Hilltopper Hysteria on Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019, at E. A. Diddle Arena. (Austin Anthony/photo@bgdailynews.com)

For the second straight game to open the season, the Western Kentucky women’s basketball team will hit the road.

And for the second time, the Lady Toppers will face a team that played in last season’s NCAA Tournament.

WKU travels to Hawkins Arena in Macon, Ga., to face Mercer at 3:30 p.m. CST Friday looking for its first win of the season after falling at No. 9 Louisville in the opener Tuesday.

The Cardinals took an early lead with three first-quarter 3-pointers from Elizabeth Balogun and didn’t trail for the remainder of the contest. WKU cut the deficit to single digits in the second half, including to eight with 2:28 to play after two Sandra Skinner free throws, but Louisville pulled away from there for a 75-56 victory.

“That’s something that we’ve got to continue to improve in,” WKU coach Greg Collins said after the game. “We’ve got to get better at guarding that 3-point line.”

Sherry Porter led WKU in the loss with 15 points, 13 of which came in the first half. Dee Givens had 13 after going scoreless in the first half off the bench. Givens, a redshirt senior, was an All-Conference First Team member last year and was tabbed as an All-Conference preseason player after leading WKU with 17.6 points per game last year.

“At halftime I feel like she was really frustrated about not seeing the ball go in and so, in the second half, I said, ‘Just play and be a basketball player,’ ” Collins said.

“I felt like that’s what she did. She got some deflections, got some steals, got to the free-throw line and she’s always going to be that player you’ve got to worry about because, at any moment, she can go off and get double figures in a quarter.”

Whitney Creech had 10 points and Raneem Elgedawy had eight points and eight rebounds. Collins said after he was impressed with Elgedawy’s effort on defense and on the boards.

“Maybe against a team that wasn’t ninth in the country, she might have had a double-double,” he said. “It was a challenge and it’s good for her and it was a good way to learn and so she’ll get better, we’ll get better and we’ll take it down the road and get ready for our next game.”

WKU will now face a Mercer team that allowed under 50 points in its first game of the season – a 74-47 win over LaGrange on Tuesday. The Bears forced 29 turnovers in the game and had four players score in double figures with Shannon Titus (14 points), P.J. Wintermyer (14), Jordan McLaughlin (10) and Amoria Neal-Tysor (10). Mercer was 5-of-9 from 3-point range, with all five makes coming in the second half after attempting just one through the first two quarters.

The Bears went 25-8 in the 2018-19 season, but this year are a young team featuring only one upperclassman in Titus, a junior. The rest are freshmen or sophomores.

“Because there are so many questions, I think we’re going to have to get points any way that we can manufacture them. It’s going to be a game-to-game scenario of who’s playing the best. Our team knows that. I think that’s why they all played so hard, because they wanted to be big for us,” Mercer coach Susie Gardner said following Tuesday’s game. “Last year, I started the same exact lineup for all 30-plus games with no deviation. This year, who knows who’s going to start versus Western Kentucky and that’s just how it’s going to be.”

Friday will mark the first time since the 1977-78 season that WKU has opened the season with two true road games. The Lady Tops won the only other meeting between the two programs, 67-62, on Nov. 24, 2017, during the Georgia State Thanksgiving Classic.{p class=”p1” style=”text-align: center;”}Western Kentucky (0-1, 0-0) at Mercer (1-0, 0-0){p class=”p2” style=”text-align: center;”}{span class=”s1”}3:30 p.m., Friday, Hawkins Arena{/span}{p class=”p1” style=”text-align: left;”}Probable starters{p class=”p2” style=”text-align: left;”}WESTERN KENTUCKY{p class=”p2”}Dee Givens, f, 6-1, r-sr. (13 ppg, 3 rpg); Raneem Elgedawy, f, 6-4, jr. (8 ppg, 8 rpg); Meral Abdelgawad, g, 5-11, so. (3 ppg, 2 rpg); ; Whitney Creech, g, 5-8, sr. (10 ppg, 5 rpg); Sherry Porter, g, 5-7, jr (15 ppg, 3 rpg).{p class=”p2”}MERCER{p class=”p2”}Shannon Titus, g/f, 5-11, jr. (14 ppg, 3 rpg); Jordan McLaughlin, g, 5-6, fr. (10 ppg, 4 rpg); Jaron Dougherty, f, 6-0, so. (8 ppg, 3 rpg); Tia Benvenuti, g, 5-9, so. (6 ppg, 4 apg); Summer Pahl, g, 5-10, so. (4 ppg, 1 rpg).{p class=”p1”}Television{p class=”p2”}ESPN3{p class=”p1”}Radio{p class=”p2”}ESPN 102.7FM and 1450AM in BG{p class=”p1”}Coaches{p class=”p2”}Greg Collins (20-16 second season; 20-16 overall) WKU; Susie Gardner (170-118 10th season, 356-265 overall), Mercer.{p class=”p1”}Series record{p class=”p2”}WKU leads the series 1-0 (WKU won the last meeting 67-62 on Nov. 24, 2017, in the Georgia State Thanksgiving Classic).{p class=”p1”}Last time out{p class=”p2”}WKU lost 75-56 to Louisville on Tuesday; Mercer won 74-47 against LaGrange on Tuesday.{&end}

– Follow sports reporter Jared MacDonald on Twitter @JMacDonaldSport or visit bgdailynews.com.

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