WKU is set to kick off its “second season” on Thursday evening at 6 p.m. inside E.A. Diddle Arena, hosting Charlotte to begin the 16-game C-USA portion of its regular season schedule. The Lady Toppers and 49ers are meeting for the 23rd time in program history, with WKU holding a 17-5 edge in the all-time series that has featured eight matchups since 2014-15.
In its last time out, WKU knocked off the No. 1 Division II team in the nation, defeating Union (Tenn.), 77-65, last Saturday evening. Meral Abdelgawad led the way for the Lady Toppers, pouring in a career-best 26 points on 8-of-10 shooting to lead all scorers.
WKU owns a perfect 4-0 record in C-USA regular season openers and holds a 59-11 mark overall against other league members since joining the conference in 2014-15. The Lady Toppers have captured the last two C-USA Tournament titles in 2017 and 2018.
Jade Phillips leads three 49ers in double figures at 14 points per game, just ahead of Laia Raventós (11.7) and Mariah Linney (11.0). Phillips is also the team’s leading rebounder at eight boards per game, while Raventós has dished out a team-best 53 assists to just 34 turnovers. Charlotte enters having won three of its last four games to close non-conference play.
WKU will return to the Diddle Arena court in its next time out on Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m. to take on Old Dominion to close the opening week of C-USA play.
GAME #15 / C-USA GAME #1 – WKU VS. CHARLOTTE
WKU (6-8, 0-0 C-USA) vs. Charlotte (8-4, 0-0 C-USA)
January 3, 2019 | 6:00 p.m. (CT)
Bowling Green, Ky. | E.A. Diddle Arena (7,523)
– WKU enters C-USA play sporting a 19-game home winning streak in conference play dating back to a 62-51 victory over Middle Tennessee on Feb. 25, 2016. The Lady Toppers have finished each of the last two seasons undefeated in C-USA play on their home court and are 33-2 at home against C-USA foes since joining the league in 2014-15.
– Over its first four seasons as a member of Conference USA, WKU owns a 59-11 mark against the rest of the league since joining and posted a 12-4 record last season.
– Since joining C-USA prior to the 2014-15 campaign, WKU has posted a perfect 4-0 record in conference openers and will look to continue that trend on Thursday evening. The Lady Toppers have defeated Marshall (2015 and 2016), Florida Atlantic (2017) and Middle Tennessee (2018) in those C-USA season openers by an average of 19.5 points.
– Meral Abdelgawad tallied a career-best 26 points against Union (Tenn.) en route to claiming C-USA Freshman of the Week honors for the first time in her career. Abdelgawad’s 26 points were the most by any C-USA freshman this season and also the most by any Lady Topper.
– WKU and Charlotte have staged some exciting games in recent seasons, with the last five meetings being decided by an average of just 9.4 points, including a one-point thriller in a 75-74 WKU victory two seasons ago. Charlotte is one of only four C-USA members with multiple wins over WKU since 2014-15, joining Southern Miss, UTEP and UTSA.
– This season, WKU’s defense has limited its opponents to fewer than 70 points on five occasions, coming away with a win in all five games. Over the last three seasons dating back to 2016-17, the Lady Toppers have posted a 48-3 record when holding their opponents under 70 points, including a perfect 30-0 mark when limiting them to fewer than 60 points.
– Through 14 games, WKU ranks fifth in the nation in most free throws made, knocking down 216 shots from the charity stripe. The Lady Toppers have made 23 more free throws than the next closest C-USA squad (Louisiana Tech) and are making an average of 15.4 free throws per contest. For the year, WKU is just shy of making more free throws than its opponents have attempted, with the opposition combining for 233 attempts.
– Dee Givens entered the season as WKU’s top returner in steals from the 2017-18 campaign and has continued to build on that reputation. Givens has 42 total steals, an average of three per game, this season, a number that ranks 11th among all qualifying Division I players. Givens’ 42 steals is also the top mark among all C-USA players.
– Despite having her streak of 38 consecutive made free throws snapped against Ball State, Dee Givens has enjoyed a strong season from the charity stripe. Givens’ .890 (65-of-73) percentage ranks third in the nation among all Division I players who have attempted at least 60 free throws this season.
– WKU moved one step closer to the 1,000-win plateau with its victory against Union (Tenn.) on Dec. 29. The Lady Toppers now sit just 10 wins shy of becoming the 10th program in Division I history to reach that mark.
– Under Greg Collins, WKU has featured a revamped, fast-paced offensive attack this season and is averaging 76.1 points per game through 14 contests. Should WKU average at least 75 points per game this season, the Lady Toppers will have hit that mark in four of the five most recent seasons after previously not doing so since 2004-05.
– WKU has been efficient at forcing turnovers this season, forcing its opponents into an average of 17.6 giveaways per game. The Lady Toppers have forced double-digit turnovers in 66 straight games dating back to a Jan. 7, 2017, contest at Old Dominion.
– Through 14 games, Raneem Elgedawy and Meral Abdelgawad have combined to score 340 of WKU’s 1,066 points, just under a third of the team’s total. In addition to their scoring, the duo has combined for 148 rebounds, also just under a third of the team’s total of 473.
– Despite its rally falling just short at Oklahoma on Nov. 10, WKU scored its most points in a single quarter since moving to the system in 2015-16, netting 35 points in the fourth frame against the Sooners. The 35 points were WKU’s most since setting the previous record of 33 points in the fourth quarter against Dayton in the WNIT on March 17, 2016.
– The Lady Toppers were picked fourth in the preseason C-USA coaches’ poll, but have met or exceeded their expectations in each of the last two years. In 2016-17, WKU won the tournament title after being picked first, and repeated as champions in 2017-18 after a second-place pick.
– WKU put together an 11-1 record inside Diddle Arena last season and has posted a 78-15 record inside the friendly confines of its home arena since Greg Collins has been with the program in 2012-13. The Lady Toppers got back to their winning ways inside Diddle with a 77-65 win over Union (Tenn.) last Saturday.
– WKU enters the 2018-19 season having had only five international letterwinners in program history, including sophomore Raneem Elgedawy. This year, the Lady Toppers will sport three international student-athletes on the roster, with Arame Niang and Meral Abdelgawad joining Elgedawy on The Hill.
– In its four seasons as a C-USA member, WKU has claimed a pair of regular season titles and has won the conference tournament three times, including back-to-back wins in both 2017 and 2018. WKU is only the second school in C-USA history to claim back-to-back tournament titles as a league member, joining former member Tulane, who won three straight from 1999-2001.
– In each of Greg Collins’ six previous years on WKU’s bench, the Lady Toppers have had 20 or more victories, with the team looking to extend that streak in 2018-19. WKU’s current streak of six 20-win seasons is its second-longest in program history, trailing only seven straight from 1982-83 to 1988-89 during the Paul Sanderford era. In WKU’s modern era (since 1973-74), five of the 10 head coaches have captured 20-win seasons in their debut years on The Hill, most recently with Michelle Clark-Heard’s 22 wins in 2012-13.
Listen: 102.7FM, 1450AM in Bowling Green (Brett Williams, pxp; John Butler, analysis)
Live Stream: ESPN3 (Jeff Younglove, pxp; Paul Sanderford, analysis)
How to Follow the Lady Toppers: For complete information on WKU Lady Topper Basketball, visit WKUSports.com or follow the program via social media @LadyTopperHoops on Twitter, @LadyTopperHoops on Instagram and on Facebook at facebook.com/WKUWomensBasketball.
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Currie P. McFayden
WKU Associate Director of Athletic Communications
Women’s Basketball | Women’s Soccer