Lady Toppers defeat Belmont 77-46

Western Kentucky guard Whitney Creech shoots during WKU’s 77-46 win over Belmont on Nov. 13 at E.A. Diddle Arena.

The Western Kentucky women’s basketball team has returned from a trip to California to host its final game at E.A. Diddle Arena in the 2019 portion of this season’s schedule.

The Lady Toppers went 1-1 in Moraga, Calif., at the Saint Mary’s Thanksgiving Classic on Friday and Saturday and will look to bounce back from a loss to the Gaels when they tip off with Oklahoma at 6 p.m. CST on Wednesday.

“It was a good trip,” WKU coach Greg Collins said ahead of Tuesday’s practice. “We enjoyed our Thanksgiving, we had some time together as a team, we got out on a dinner cruise and got to see the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz – I threatened if they didn’t do a better job we were going to leave somebody at Alcatraz – but they played hard this weekend.”

Western Kentucky (5-2) beat Tulsa 76-63 on Friday in its first game of the Classic for the team’s fifth straight win, before having the streak snapped in an 80-73 overtime loss to Saint Mary’s, in which the Lady Toppers had to battle back from a 16-point deficit. Senior point guard Whitney Creech had a look before the fourth-quarter buzzer, but couldn’t get her shot to fall.

WKU will now play its final contest in Diddle before the new year, and the first game before a five-game stretch of road games. Oklahoma (4-3) is coming off an 88-83 loss to Wichita State and represents the second of three Power Five opponents on WKU’s schedule. The Lady Toppers lost at Louisville, which moved to No. 2 in Monday’s Associated Press Top 25, in the opener and will travel to Purdue, which received votes in the poll, on Dec. 18 after games at Ball State and Samford.

WKU is undefeated at home this season and Oklahoma has yet to win on the road. The Sooners feature three players averaging double-figure scoring with Taylor Robertson (19.7 points per game), Ana Llanusa (19.1) and Madi Williams (14.0). Robertson, a 5-foot-7 sophomore guard, was named Big 12 Co-Player of the Week after back-to-back 20-plus point performances, including a 30-point performance that featured nine 3-pointers in the loss to the Shockers. Robertson is now the NCAA’s active leader in career 3-point percentage at 48.8 percent (144-for-298).

Oklahoma averages 81.6 points per game and WKU has not allowed more than 80 points in a contest this season. The Lady Toppers have had success against other fast-paced offenses this season, like Belmont and Central Michigan, beating them by a combined 66 points.

“A little bit like Central Michigan, a little bit like Belmont – the teams that like to push it up and down the floor – and that’s something that we’ve worked on,” Collins said. “I think we’re still going to have to do even a better job than what we’ve done in our defensive transition to stop them because they get it out even faster than Central Michigan gets it out, so it’ll be a challenge for us, but I think it’s a challenge that our players will be ready for.”

While Oklahoma has a conference Player of the Week, so does WKU. Raneem Elgedawy was named Conference USA Player of the Week after she had 45 points and 23 rebounds in California. Elgedawy is now leading the team with 16.3 points per game and 11 rebounds per game. Creech and Dee Givens are the other two Lady Toppers averaging double-figure scoring with 16 and 14.9 points per game, respectively.

The Lady Toppers enter Wednesday looking for the program’s first win over Oklahoma. WKU is 0-2 all time against the Sooners. The first meeting came in 1985 and the second was last season. Robertson had 24 points and Williams had 15 in the 90-83 victory in Norman, Okla., while Givens had 21, Meral Abdelgawad had 15 and Elgedawy had 14 for WKU.

Wednesday marks the first event in a busy week at Diddle. The venue will host first- and second-round matches in the NCAA Volleyball Tournament on Thursday and Friday, before the men’s basketball team hosts Arkansas on Saturday. Tickets for Wednesday’s game were being offered for $1.

“We want this to be a great week,” Collins said. “Volleyball gets to host the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament, the men’s basketball team has Arkansas coming in on Saturday and we want to kick it off with a great crowd and a great showing against Oklahoma.”

OKLAHOMA (4-3) AT WESTERN KENTUCKY (5-2)

6 p.m., Wednesday, E.A. Diddle Arena

Probable starters

OKLAHOMA

Ana Llanusa, g, 6-0, jr. (19.1 ppg, 5.1 rpg); Tatum Veitenheimer, g, 5-8, so. (2.4 ppg, 2.3 apg); Taylor Robertson, g, 5-8, so. (19.7 ppg, 2.9 rpg); Madi Williams, g/f, 6-0, so. (14.0 ppg, 10.6 rpg); Mandy Simpson, f, 6-1, jr. (3.1 ppg, 4.0 rpg)

WESTERN KENTUCKY

Dee Givens, f, 6-1, r-sr. (14.9 ppg, 5.3 rpg); Raneem Elgedawy, f, 6-4, jr. (16.3 ppg, 11.0 rpg); Meral Abdelgawad, g, 5-11, so. (8.1 ppg, 3.1 rpg); Whitney Creech, g, 5-8, sr. (16.0 ppg, 4.0 apg); Sherry Porter, g, 5-7, jr (9.7 ppg, 3.6 rpg).

Television

ESPN+

Radio

ESPN 102.7 FM and 1450 AM in BG

Coaches

Sherri Coale (493-267 24th season; 493-267 overall) Oklahoma; Greg Collins (25-17 second season; 25-17 overall) WKU.

Series record

Oklahoma leads the series 2-0 (Oklahoma won the last meeting 90-83 on Nov. 9, 2018, at Lloyd Noble Center).

Last time out

Oklahoma lost to Wichita State 88-83 on Saturday; WKU lost to Saint Mary’s in overtime 80-73 on Saturday.{&end}

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

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