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Lady Tops hold off Charlotte, win 75-74

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. – WKU overcame a 13-point second-quarter deficit and withstood a late Charlotte rally in a thrilling 75-74 win inside E.A. Diddle Arena on Thursday evening, led by a game-high 23 points from C-USA Player of the Year candidate Kendall Noble.

Despite a late 18-6 run by the 49ers (17-9, 9-6 C-USA), WKU (21-6, 13-2 C-USA) claimed the one-point win after Ciara Gregory’s three-pointer at the final buzzer did not fall. With the victory, the Lady Toppers remain on top of the C-USA standings with three regular season games remaining.

Noble led all scorers with 23 points and knocked down 12 of her 14 attempts from the free throw line on the night. Kyvin Goodin-Rogers added 14 points and Ivy Brown joined the trio in double figures with 11 points. Freshman Malaka Frank pulled down six boards on the night, while Micah Jones dished out eight assists with no turnovers.

WKU overcame a slow start by shooting 14-of-26 (53.8 percent) in the second half, including 7-of-11 (63.6 percent) from three-point range.

Charlotte was led by Gregory’s 22 points on the evening. Nyilah Jamison-Myers and Lefty Webster each added 15 points and Grace Hunter rounded out the 49ers in double figures with 12 points. Webster and Hunter each had a game-best seven rebounds.

The two sides exchanged quick runs over the opening three minutes, with Charlotte scored the first five points of the night and WKU responding with six unanswered of its own. Goodin-Rogers keyed the run with four points, and Ivy Brown capped the burst for the Lady Toppers with a layup to take a 6-5 lead with 7:09 on the clock.

Trailing 13-9 with just over four minutes remaining in the first frame, the 49ers used eight unanswered points to surge to a 17-13 lead. Goodin-Rogers ended the stretch with a layup with 16 seconds remaining, but Gregory’s triple with eight seconds left gave the 49ers a 20-15 edge at the end of the first quarter.

Charlotte opened the second quarter on a 10-2 run over the first four minutes, extending its lead to as many as 13 points. Hunter and Gregory each chipped in a three-pointer during the run for the 49ers, the second of which left Charlotte with a 30-17 edge with 6:22 to play before the break.

WKU battled its way back into the game, and Tashia Brown’s three-pointer with just 12 seconds remaining cut the deficit to only six points, 38-32, going into halftime.

After Jamison-Myers knocked down the first shot of the third quarter to build a 40-32 lead for the 49ers, WKU fired back with a 19-5 run over the next four minutes to take its first lead since the opening quarter. Ivy Brown knocked down a trio of three-pointers during the stretch and both Goodin-Rogers and Micah Jones each added one for the Lady Toppers, who went up 51-45 on the last of Brown’s shots from beyond the arc.

Gregory ended the WKU run by knocking down three free throws after being fouled on a three-point attempt, but the Lady Toppers again responded with a 9-2 run over the final four and a half minutes of the quarter. Whitney Creech scored five points during the run, including a three-pointer that gave WKU a double-digit lead, 60-50, going into the final quarter of play.

WKU’s lead grew to as many as 13 points on three occasions early in the fourth quarter, including on Ima Akpan’s layup at the 7:04 mark to grab a 69-56 advantage. From there, however, Charlotte scored six unanswered points to whittle the lead to seven, 69-62, on Jamison-Myers’ layup just over one minute later.

Charlotte continued to chip away at the deficit, eventually leaving WKU with a lead of just one point, 75-74, following Gregory’s three-pointer with 23 seconds remaining. Left playing defense on the decisive possession of the game, WKU held on for the one-point win as Gregory’s attempt at the buzzer rimmed out.

WKU will return to action for its final regular season home game on Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m. against Old Dominion. Seniors Kendall Noble, Micah Jones and Ima Akpan will be honored in a special ceremony following the game for their accomplishments with the program.

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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