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Western Kentucky redshirt senior guard Alexis Brewer looks to pass during WKU’s 78-65 win against UTEP on Thursday at E.A. Diddle Arena.

The Western Kentucky women’s basketball team put together a near-perfect opening 16 minutes in Thursday’s win against UTEP.

The Lady Toppers built a 27-point lead by the 3:29 mark in the second quarter, but had to fight off the Miners to claim a 78-65 victory.

WKU is still looking to put together a complete game, and its next opportunity to do so is in a 2 p.m. matchup with UTSA on Saturday at E.A. Diddle Arena.

“With this team, we’ve gotten better. We’ve just got to become more consistent,” WKU coach Greg Collins said after Thursday’s game. “If we’re going to beat really good teams, we can’t have lapses like we had tonight and in the past.

“When we do that, we’ve got a shot at being pretty good and beating some good teams. When we don’t, we’re pretty average. If we want to be really good, we’ve got to be more focused throughout the entire part of the game.”

WKU (17-6 overall, 9-3 Conference USA) remained unbeaten at home with Thursday’s win over UTEP, and will look to make it a perfect 10-0 at Diddle when it tips off with the Roadrunners (6-17, 2-10) – the only C-USA team the Lady Toppers haven’t faced this season – on Saturday.

The Lady Toppers are third in the league standings behind Old Dominion and Rice, who are both 11-1 in league play. The Monarchs snapped the Owls’ 30-game conference winning streak with an 66-59 overtime win Thursday in Norfolk, Va.

Thursday’s victory over UTEP was the seventh straight win for WKU and ninth in 10 games, but despite the run of success, the team doesn’t feel it’s playing its best basketball with six regular-season games – four of which are home – remaining.

“I think we’ve just got to play consistently through all four quarters. Today we showed we’re not consistent when we play in all four quarters,” redshirt senior Dee Givens said after Thursday’s win. “The first quarter, we should have carried that out throughout the whole game and we probably could have blown them out if we played like we did in the first quarter. I don’t think we've played our best yet. That’s a good thing.”

WKU’s start against UTEP began on the defensive end by forcing seven first-quarter turnovers and scoring 13 of the 16 points in the frame off of them. The Lady Toppers also outrebounded the Miners 11-5 in the first quarter and 22-18 in the first half, which UTEP ended on an 11-0 run to start a comeback bid, and got as close as five points in the fourth quarter.

“I think it’s maintaining that intensity on defense and not letting offense dictate how hard you play on defense, and we still do that sometimes,” Collins said. “We take a lot of pride – more pride – in our defense, we take a lot of pride in rebounding now, but we don’t sometimes put the same effort into it that we need to. We’ll watch that on film for a little bit, but we’re going to move forward and get ready for UT-San Antonio.”

WKU shot 5-for-13 (38.5 percent) from 3-point range in the first half, continuing an improved stretch over the last few games after firing just 21.8 percent through the first nine conference games. The Lady Toppers finished the game 8-for-25 (32 percent) and have shot 22-for-58 (37.9 percent) from beyond the arc in the last three games.

Alexis Brewer has led the shooting resurgence by going 9-for-13 (69.2 percent) from 3 the last three games after being inserted into the starting lineup in place of Sherry Porter. Porter suffered an MCL injury in the third quarter of the Feb. 1 victory over FIU and hasn’t played since. Collins didn’t rule Porter out for Saturday’s game following Thursday’s win, but said it would be unlikely she plays.

Brewer was one of four players to score in double figures for WKU on Thursday. She and Meral Abdelgawad each had 17 points, while Raneem Elgedawy and Givens each had 16. Elgedawy leads the Lady Toppers with 17.1 points and 10.6 rebounds per game, while Givens averages 16.7 points and Whitney Creech averages 14.2.

WKU will look to keep its offense rolling against a UTSA team that allows 74.2 points per game – the worst mark in C-USA. The Roadrunners have the second-worst scoring offense in the league at 60.3 points per game and have a minus 13.9 scoring margin – also the worst in the league. UTSA has the worst rebounding margin (minus 5.2) and the third-worst turnover margin (minus 2.3) in the league, while WKU is fifth (plus 4.0) and first (plus 4.2), respectively, in those categories.

Mikayla Woods leads UTSA with 15.1 points per game, but she did not play in the team’s loss at Marshall on Thursday. Adryana Quezada and Karrington Donald average 13 and 10.6 points, respectively, for the Roadrunners.

WKU leads the series with UTSA 4-2 and has won three straight meetings. The Lady Toppers will follow Saturday’s game with a Thursday matchup with Marshall, which they beat 74-65 on Jan. 25 in Huntington, W.Va.

UTSA (6-17, 2-10) AT WESTERN KENTUCKY (17-6, 9-3)

2 p.m., Saturday, E.A. Diddle Arena

Probable starters

UTSA

Karrington Donald, g, 5-7, jr. (10.6 ppg, 3.4 rpg); Evelyn Omemmah, f, 6-1, sr. (6.1 ppg, 5.6 rpg); Adryana Quezada, f, 5-10, fr. (13.0 ppg, 5.9 rpg); Karley Larson, g, 5-7, fr. (5.2 ppg, 0.8 rpg); Timea Toth, f, 6-1, sr. (3.6 ppg, 6.2 rpg).

WESTERN KENTUCKY

Dee Givens, f, 6-1, r-sr. (16.7 ppg, 5.6 rpg); Raneem Elgedawy, f, 6-4, jr. (17.1 ppg, 10.6 rpg); Meral Abdelgawad, g, 5-11, so. (7.7 ppg, 3.8 rpg); Whitney Creech, g, 5-8, sr. (14.2 ppg, 4.6 apg); Alexis Brewer, g, 5-9, r-sr (5.1 ppg, 2.0 rpg).

Television

C-USA TV

Radio

ESPN 102.7 FM and 1450 AM in BG

Coaches

Kristen Hold (32-59 third season; 83-146 overall), UTSA.; Greg Collins (37-21 second season; 37-21 overall), WKU.

Series record

WKU leads the series 4-2. (WKU won the last meeting 81-62 on Jan. 31, 2019, in San Antonio, Texas.)

Last time out

WKU won 78-65 at home against UTEP on Thursday; UTSA lost 66-53 at Marshall on Thursday.{&end}

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

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