Hilltopper Hysteria

WKU forward Sandra Skinner shoots while guarded by WKU guard Whitney Creech during Hilltopper Hysteria on Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019, at E. A. Diddle Arena. (Austin Anthony/photo@bgdailynews.com)

The Western Kentucky women’s basketball team is coming home.

The Lady Toppers face Belmont at 6 p.m. Wednesday at E.A. Diddle Arena to start a three-game homestand.

WKU (1-1) beat Mercer on Friday 75-62 after a season-opening 75-56 loss at No. 9 Louisville last Tuesday. It was the first time the program started the season with two true road games since the 1977-78 season.

Four Lady Toppers scored in double figures against the Bears, led by Raneem Elgedawy’s 18-point, 19-rebound performance. Whitney Creech had 17 points, Meral Abdelgawad has 15 and Dee Givens had 10 to go along with nine rebounds, five assists and five steals.

Abdelgawad had three first-quarter 3-pointers to help WKU to a 21-14 lead heading into the second. It came after she had just three points against Louisville in a game where the Lady Toppers shot just 27.8 percent (5-18) from the field and 25 percent (2-8) from beyond the arc in the first quarter. They finished the opener shooting 33.3 percent (19-57) and 31.6 percent (6-19) from 3-point range.

Second-year WKU head coach Greg Collins said on the “Greg Collins Radio Show” on Monday on ESPN 102.7 FM and 1450 AM part of the early shooting struggles were likely getting used to not having Alexis Brewer on the floor. Brewer averaged 11.4 points per game last year and shot 35.9 percent from 3-point range last year and is rehabbing from offseason shoulder surgery.

Four Lady Toppers are averaging double-figure scoring, led by Creech’s 13.5 points per game, but Collins is still hoping for more from her offensively.

“Today in practice, as a matter of fact, we were running through our offense and I had to stop and make the entire team do pushups because Whitney Creech passes up a wide-open 3,” Collins said on Monday’s show. “Whit stood and watched her teammates do pushups and the next time the ball came back around, you know what she did? She dropped a 3-ball on them and it was nothing but net.”

Following Creech are Elgedawy (13 points per game), Givens (11.5) and Sherry Porter (11.5).

“They are going to be the biggest challenge for us defensively, because they have five players on the floor who can all score. It is going to be a lot different challenge than the first two games,” Belmont coach Bart Brooks said ahead of Wednesday’s game.

WKU grew its lead to as much as 13 in the first quarter Friday, but Mercer tied it 29-all with 9:13 to play in the third quarter. Turnovers were a major part of Mercer’s comeback bid. The Lady Toppers had eight in the second quarter and finished with 25 in the game.

“We still don’t have as many assists as we need, but that’s not because of not trying to move the ball or not looking for that shot,” Collins said on Monday’s radio show. “We’re just turning the ball over too much.”

Belmont (2-0) has the 11th-best scoring defense in the nation, allowing opponents only 43.5 points per game, and are 21st with a plus-18 rebounding differential. WKU has 88 rebounds through its first two games, including 51 its last time out.

The Bruins are led by preseason OVC Player of the Year Ellie Harmeyer, who’s averaging 18 points and 16 rebounds. Conley Chinn (11.5 points per game), Maddie Wright (11.0), Maura Muensterman (10.0) and Jamilyn Kinney (9.0) are also listed as probable starters for Wednesday’s contest.

Belmont has put up 46 3-pointers in two games and connected at a 41.3 percent clip. The Lady Toppers gave up 12 3-pointers in an exhibition win over Kentucky Wesleyan, including six in the first quarter, and eight against Louisville, including 3-of-4 taken by the Cardinals in the first quarter. WKU allowed only one in the win at Mercer.

“That’s something we’re working on – just like playing Kentucky Wesleyan – getting out there and getting at those 3-pointer shooters and getting them off the line,” Collins said on Monday’s show. “ ... You’ve got to be able to guard those teams and that’s something we’re going to do. We’re going to go out there and run them off that line and see if we can make them take some difficult twos.”

WKU will remain at E.A. Diddle Arena for its next two games following Wednesday’s matchup with Belmont. The Lady Toppers will host Central Michigan on Sunday and play Little Rock the following week.{&end}

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

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