WKU tops Herd women in OT
HUNTINGTON — On Saturday, Marshall University’s women’s basketball team had several opportunities to end its regular-season woes against Western Kentucky. In the end, however, each of those opportunities fell just short.
Western Kentucky kept Marshall without a field goal over the final 3:30 of overtime and the Hilltoppers earned a 69-66 win over the Thundering Herd in front of 1,182 spectators in Cam Henderson Center.
“That’s a tough loss,” Marshall head coach Tony Kemper said. “That one hurts. I think the good thing, from my perspective, is that they are over moral victories. That’s good. They don’t have any time for that, and that’s a good thing.”
Earlier this season, Western Kentucky handled Marshall (15-12, 9-5 Conference USA) by 30 points in Bowling Green, Kentucky, but this contest showed the Herd’s growth from that point as the game never saw separation of more than seven points for either side.
One of the things that led Marshall’s resurgence this season is its ability to execute in the late stretches of close games. However, that execution was not there Saturday afternoon.
After Western Kentucky’s Arame Niang hit one of two free throws with 6.5 seconds left to make it a 68-66 game, Marshall guard Shayna Gore lost control of the basketball in the backcourt, resulting in a turnover that essentially sealed the game for the Hilltoppers.
Prior to that, the Herd had a chance to tie it at the free
line, but Taylor Porter’s second of two attempts with 7.1 seconds left fell off the rim and Niang controlled the rebound.
That sequence came after Marshall had an open 17-foot shot for Kristen Mayo fall short in a one-point game in the final 15 seconds of the extra session.
“We probably had shots that I feel we are very capable of making that we didn’t make,” Kemper said. “They (WKU) made enough.”
Western Kentucky didn’t exactly do itself any favors, either. The Hilltoppers hit only 16 of 29 free throw attempts, which allowed the Herd to stick around.
Those misses were magnified in the late stages of regulation as Marshall overcame a five-point deficit with less than four minutes left.
Gore, who finished with 26 points, hit a pair of 3-pointers down the stretch including a banked in shot that gave the Herd a brief 60-59 lead with 1:15 left.
Marshall had the final possession of regulation after a hustle play to force a jump ball off a missed free throw, but Gore’s pass for Porter was stolen by Dee Givens, whose 60-foot heave hit the front of the iron at the horn. Givens finished with 23 points and 13 rebounds to pace the Hilltoppers.
One constant in the contest was Western Kentucky’s ability to start quarters strong. The Hilltoppers had 9-3 runs to open three of four regulation quarters and the other quarter started 7-3, which forced Marshall to constantly work its way back.
Kemper said one quarter he wasn’t pleased with the team’s energy to start the frame was coming out of halftime when Western Kentucky (15-13, 9-5 C-USA) scored 13 points in the first four minutes to take a 44-37 lead and he called a timeout.
To the Herd’s credit, the timeout worked as Marshall kept the Hilltoppers scoreless for the rest of the frame. Porter, who finished with 12 points, scored six during an 8-0 run to end the quarter and Marshall took a 45-44 lead to the final period.
Despite Western Kentucky’s strong starts, Marshall never trailed at the end of any quarter until the end of the contest.
The Herd took a 32-31 lead into halftime, courtesy of a pair of Mayo free throws with 2:16 left and solid defense that kept the Hilltoppers scoreless before the break.
Mayo scored 10 of her 13 points in the first half.
Khadaijia Brooks reached double-figures for Marshall with 10 points while helping guard Western Kentucky’s Raneem Elgedawy, who finished with 16 points and nine rebounds before fouling out.
After Marshall owned a rebounding advantage in the first half, Givens and Elgedawy went to work in the second half, combining for 14 rebounds. Western Kentucky finished with a 45-32 advantage in rebounding and out-rebounded the Herd by 18 in the second half.
“Obviously, that was a big key in that game,” Kemper said. “They had two offensive rebounds in the first half, I think, and ended up with 13.”
Marshall returns to action Saturday at Old Dominion.