Lady Toppers look to bounce back from consecutive losses in C-USA Tournament

Senior forward Tashia Brown (10) fights for the ball against Charlotte 49ers junior guard Laia Raventós (4) during the WKU Lady Toppers senior night on Feb. 23 at Diddle Arena. The Lady Toppers won 83 to 61.

Alec Jessie

The dust has settled on a frantic Conference USA regular season schedule, and the Lady Toppers have dropped out of the top spot in the conference after back-to-back losses at the end of the year.

WKU finished the regular season with a 21-8 overall record and a 12-4 conference record, and will still be the second seed in the C-USA Tournament in Frisco, Texas.

“I think everybody’s locked in and ready to go, and I just think everybody’s more focused now knowing what’s at stake,” redshirt sophomore Dee Givens said last week after practice. “Going into conference I think our level of focus will go up even more, just knowing like what’s at stake.”

WKU won its last two games at home against Marshall University and UNC Charlotte, giving the Lady Toppers the number one spot in the conference. Those two wins allowed WKU to control its own fate heading into the final week of the regular season. But the Lady Toppers dropped their last two road games at eighth-seeded University of Southern Mississippi and at ninth-seeded University of Texas-El Paso. Those results lifted University of Alabama-Birmingham to the top, and the Lady Toppers settled for second place.

WKU will still have a first round bye and will take on the winner of No. 7 Florida Atlantic University vs. No. 10 University of Texas-San Antonio at 1:30 p.m. Thursday. WKU dominated UTSA Jan. 18 by a score of 73-38. The Lady Toppers also took care of business against FAU Feb. 3, beating the Owls 82-63.

UAB (1), Louisiana Tech University (3) and Middle Tennessee State University (4) also have first round byes.

If the seeds hold going into the semifinals and finals, the Lady Toppers’ road to a conference championship would include a game against Louisiana Tech University at 8 p.m. Friday and against UAB in the finals at 4:30 p.m.

WKU defeated Louisiana Tech in January 74-64, but lost at UAB in embarrassing fashion, 79-61.

The Lady Toppers must shake off this week’s losses and get back to playing the aggressive, intense defense they played during the home stand.

After the Lady Toppers’ last win against Charlotte, head coach Michelle Clark-Heard said she was very happy with where her team was.

“I think tonight showed us that we’re getting better and gelling,” Clark-Heard said. “We’re learning how to follow a scouting report and really follow it so we’re getting out of it what we need to.”

Prior to the team’s setback on the road, the Lady Toppers had hit their stride. Star senior forwards Ivy and Tashia Brown have both tied or set new career highs in scoring in one of the last three games, and WKU posted a 9-1 record in its last 10 before its back-to-back losses.

While WKU may not be the odds-on favorite, the Lady Toppers certainly have the personnel to bring a C-USA Championship back to Bowling Green.

All of the first and second-round action for the C-USA Women’s Tournament will be streamed on Facebook Live. The third round will be streamed on Stadium, and the Championship will be live on the CBS Sports Network.

Sports reporter Alec Jessie can be reached at 502-648-7190 and [email protected] Follow Alec on Twitter at @Alec_Jessie.