Lady Toppers release full schedule, finalized roster

Greg Collins addresses the media during a press conference where he was announced as the new head coach of the WKU women’s basketball team on April 4 in Diddle Arena. The announcement of Collins as head coach came shortly after Michelle Clark-Heard announced she would be leaving WKU to coach the Cincinnati Bearcats women’s team.

Drake Kizer

WKU women’s basketball has released its full 31-game schedule for the 2018-19 season. The Lady Toppers’ slate features matchups against five opponents from Power 5 conferences and 16 games in Diddle Arena.

In the program’s first season under head coach Greg Collins, the Lady Toppers’ first four regular season games will come against teams that made the 2018 NCAA Tournament. WKU’s non-conference schedule also includes three more guaranteed matchups with teams that made the NCAA Tournament a year ago.

“This is probably the most challenging schedule that we’ve played in a long time,” Collins said in a press release. “At least seven of our opponents were in the NCAA Tournament last year, including the national champions (Notre Dame), a Final Four team (Louisville), an Elite Eight team (Oregon State) and a Sweet Sixteen team (Central Michigan).”

WKU will play eight non-conference games in Diddle Arena, including an exhibition against West Virginia State. The Lady Toppers’ home non-conference slate is highlighted by the regular season opener, a matchup with Louisville. The Lady Toppers will aim to increase their 25-20 edge in the all-time series against a Cardinals squad that reached the Final Four in 2018.

The Lady Toppers will also hit the road early in the season to face marquee opponents Oklahoma and Central Michigan. The Chippewas posted a 30-5 overall record and made an appearance in the Sweet 16 in 2018, while the Sooners reached their 19th consecutive NCAA Tournament a year ago. The contest between Central Michigan and WKU will mark the first-ever meeting between the two schools.

WKU’s non-conference schedule also features rematches with six teams the Lady Toppers played during the 2017-18 season, the program’s last under former head coach Michelle Clark-Heard. The Lady Toppers will seek to continue their winning ways against Union (Tennessee) and Southern Illinois, while looking to avenge losses to Ball State and Iowa. The Lady Toppers will also attempt to reverse their fortunes against 2018 National Champion Notre Dame, which defeated WKU 65-78 a season ago.

The Lady Toppers will also compete in the Vancouver Showcase in British Columbia, Canada. In WKU’s first trip outside the United States since the 2013-14 season, the Lady Toppers will be pitted against Oregon State, a team that defeated them 82-58 in the first round of the 2018 NCAA Tournament. WKU’s other matchups in the tournament will be decided depending on game results.

WKU begins conference play on Jan. 3 with a contest at home against Charlotte. The Lady Toppers will play the first three of their 16 Conference USA matchups in Diddle Arena before traveling to Miami to play Florida International. WKU will also play four out of its last five games on the road to conclude the regular season.

After the regular season ends, the Lady Toppers will compete in the 2019 C-USA Tournament. The tournament will be held in Frisco, Texas, from March 13-16.

The Lady Toppers will look to build on the success they have experienced in the last six years, which has seen them win 154 games and claim four conference tournament championships. Though the team lost senior leaders Ivy and Tashia Brown, the squad returns the 2018 C-USA Freshman of the Year and Sixth Player of the Year in Raneem Elgedawy and Dee Givens, respectively. Key contributor Whitney Creech will also be returning for The Lady Toppers.

WKU will also welcome five new players to the team, including transfers Sandra Skinner from Viriginia Commonwealth and Jae’Lisa Allen from Virginia. Allen will be able to play immediately as a graduate transfer, while Skinner will have to sit out in 2018-19 due to NCAA transfer rules. Freshmen Myriah Noodel-Haywood, Meral Abdelgawad and Kallie Searcy complete WKU’s roster for the 2018-19 season.

Sports reporter Drake Kizer can be reached at 270-745-2653 and [email protected]. Follow Drake on Twitter at @drakekizer_.