The OSU women’s basketball team, a #6 seed, begin their NCAA Tournament run in just a few short hours against the #11 Western Kentucky Hilltoppers in Knoxville, Tennessee as part of the Lexington regional.
To learn a bit more about the Conference-USA champions, we had a few questions for Fletcher Keel, the man in charge of The Towel Rack: a blog covering all things Western Kentucky. Needless to say, his answers make us think we’re in for a thrilling opening round matchup.
1. Turnovers have been a struggle for Oregon State this season, is Western Kentucky the type of team that can generate turnovers and use them to generate points?
Yes, absolutely. Ivy Brown (a name you’re going to come across a lot) ranked second in steals in the league this year, and WKU as a team lead Conference USA in steals with 10.6 per game. The Lady Tops love to play a transition game, and they have no issue starting those transitions with a forced turnover.
2. Oregon State revolves around Marie Gulich in the post. How has Western Kentucky dealt with dominant post players so far this season?
There hasn’t really been a game this year where the Lady Tops fell victim to a really dominant performance. It also helps to have the aforementioned Ivy Brown, along with C-USA Freshman of the Year Raneem Elgedawy, are both 6’1” and 6’4”, respectively, are each tenacious on defense, and are combining to average nearly 18 rebounds a game. On the offensive side, the Lady Tops don’t necessarily rely on getting easy looks, so while they might feel forced to take more jump shots, it shouldn’t affect the offensive side of the game too much for WKU.
3. Who’s the star player or players to watch for?
Ivy, again, who won the league’s Defensive Player of the Year award, along with Tashia Brown, who was the league’s Player of the Year, and who is averaging 22.7 points a night. Since 2011, the lady Tops have relied on a form of a dynamic duo, and it’s the Brown’s who have led the Tops for four years.
Each player in the Lady Tops’ starting line up could be the player of the game in any given night, but the Brown’s are the two you have to prepare for the most.
4. What matchup(s) does WKU feel like is(are) in their favor?
That’s kind of a difficult question because the Lady Tops and Beavers really play very different styles of basketball. I’d say the post matchup, but with Elgedawy still just a freshman, I’m not sure how she’ll look against a team the quality of Oregon State. I guess I’ll say I think the Lady Tops like their odds on defense, with how successful they are at forcing turnovers, and they love to score, so the most interesting matchup will be if they have success scoring from inside.
5. What role player may potentially break out for a big contribution?
That’ll be either Dee Givens, who earned C-USA Sixth Player of the Year honors (averaged 8.7 points and 4.2 boards a game) or Sidnee Bopp, who is lethal from three or Whitney Creech, who set the Kentucky all-time scoring record in high school and has been able to score immediately since coming to the Hill.
6. Final score/outcome prediction?
Our main women’s writer, Matt McCay, who handled our preview thinks the Lady Tops will win a thriller, and I think I agree. The Tops were kind of gifted the 11 seed - not saying they didn’t have a good year, but they struggled down the stretch in the regular season a bit - and the close travel will bode well in WKU’s favor. The Lady Toppers couldn’t be stopped come C-USA play and the Brown’s have never won an NCAA Tournament game. I want to say that changes, and I think the Lady Tops will win this thing to the tune of a 71-63 victory.