Lady Toppers look ahead after season-ending loss in WNIT


Drake Kizer

WKU’s women’s basketball season came to an end this week, concluding a campaign that saw the squad make it to the Women’s National Invitation Tournament round of 16.

The Lady Toppers were already the last remaining Conference USA squad in the WNIT, but since the NCAA Tournament was down to its Sweet 16, WKU was also one of only 32 total schools left in the two premier postseason tournaments for women’s basketball.

The Lady Toppers couldn’t manage to get past Ohio (30-6) after overcoming an eight-point halftime deficit in the first round and a three-point halftime deficit in the second round. WKU was shockingly sunk by its failure to overcome a one-point halftime deficit in the third round — by far its smallest yet.

“This was a really good basketball team that we played tonight,” Greg Collins, women’s basketball head coach, said postgame. “We were going to have to play better than we played to beat them, and I felt like there were moments where we were doing that, but we had some breakdowns there on defense. Really, that was the difference down the end of the ball game — they got to the rim and made their layups, and we got to the rim and missed our layups.”

Following the loss, WKU dropped to 5-11 on the road and 18-14 all-time in the WNIT.

The 2018-19 season is now officially over for the Lady Toppers, but the year came with many highs, including the squad winning six of its last eight contests.

WKU finished with 214 made 3-pointers, which ranked second in school history for a single season and put the team 28 shy of the program record set in 2016-17 with 242.

The Lady Toppers program also notched its seventh straight 20-win season, matching a record set by former WKU head coach Paul Sanderford from 1982-83 to 1988-89.
Collins became the sixth WKU head coach since 1973-74 to capture a 20- win season in their first year at the helm.

Collins’ 20 victories also ranked third among 23 first-time Division I head coaches this season. Minnesota’s Lindsay Whalen and Northern Colorado’s Jenny Huth tied for first place with 21-11 overall records in their first years.

It won’t be long before preparation for the 2019-20 season begins for the Lady Toppers, who should return a wealth of experience to the hardwood next fall.

Barring any transfers, WKU should only lose seniors Jae’Lisa Allen, Sidnee Bopp and Kayla Smith from this season’s squad. Senior Sandra Skinner, a transfer from Virginia Commonwealth, will also become eligible after sitting out due to NCAA transfer rules.

“I think it’s really going to be good for us to get this experience on the court,” junior guard Whitney Creech said about the WNIT last Tuesday. “We’re bringing back a majority of our players, and so, it’ll give us good experience and momentum to carry over into next season, as well.”

Although the Lady Toppers have un- finished business they can work toward

in future years, the 2018-19 team lifted itself out of a four-game losing streak in February and went on to win two postseason games, which Collins said was a testament to his players becoming physically and mentally tougher as the year wore on.

Before Collins shifted his focus to the offseason, he reflected on the year that was.

“I hope they’re remembered for the passion and the pride that they played with — especially down the stretch — representing WKU and the improvement that they made throughout the course of the season,” Collins said.

Women’s basketball reporter Drake Kizer can be reached at 270-745-2653 and clinton.k[email protected]. Follow Drake on Twitter at @drakekizer_.