Lady Toppers take down UAB for second consecutive C-USA title

WKU Head Coach Michelle Clark-Heard celebrates with WKU Forward Tashia Brown (10) following their 72-57 win in championship game of the Conference USA tournament against University of Alabama at Birmingham on Saturday March 10, 2018 at The Star in Frisco, Tx.

Sam Porter

As a college basketball player, WKU women’s basketball coach Michelle Clark-Heard went to the NCAA Tournament four times. Now, as a coach at her alma mater, Clark-Heard will head to the big dance for the fourth time.

The Lady Toppers defeated University of Alabama-Birmingham 72-57 in the Conference USA Championship to clinch a bid to the NCAA Tournament and win their second straight C-USA title. Senior forward Tashia Brown led all scorers with 25 points while sophomore guard Whitney Creech poured in 16 points in the victory.

“I’m just so honored and blessed to be sitting here and just have the opportunity to be in a situaton to win back-to-back,” Clark-Heard said. “I’m really proud for our program.”

After giving up the game’s opening bucket, Creech’s opening layup jumpstarted a 15-3 run over the next four minutes to give WKU an early double-digit lead. Senior forward Ivy Brown capped off the run with a 3-pointer before junior guard Sidnee Bopp ended the quarter with a 3-pointer of her own to end the first quarter and give the Lady Tops a 22-15 lead.

UAB cut the lead to three points after a Rachael Childress 3-pointer, but the Lady Toppers finished the half on a 14-8 run, capped off by a jumper from Tashia Brown right before the buzzer to take a 42-33 lead into the break. 

Creech’s jumper in the first minute of the third quarter stretched the lead to 11 points before UAB rallied. Angela Vendrell’s 3-pointer capped off a 14-4 run in the middle of the third quarter to make the score 48-47 with 3:10 to play.

Right when the Blazers stole the momentum, Tashia Brown reminded everyone why she was named the C-USA Player of the Year. The Lake Park, Georgia native scored seven of her 25 points, including an and-one jumper, in the final 2:38 of the third quarter to help the Lady Toppers take a 55-48 lead into the final period.

Tashia Brown was named tournament MVP after averaging 20.3 points in the three tournament games.

“It couldn’t have gone better,” Tashia Brown said of her senior year. “We came out, worked hard, our team showed up and came out and followed the game plan. We’re going back to the NCAA (Tournament).”

Tashia Brown’s layup with 4:58 to play pushed the lead to 11 points, and from that point on UAB never threatened. WKU slowly piled onto the lead en route to a 72-57 victory.

WKU will enter the NCAA Tournament with an overall record of 24-8. Clark-Heard will also be looking for her first NCAA Tournament victory as the Lady Toppers’ head coach.

Reporter Sam Porter can be reached at 270-745-6291 and [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @SammyP14.