Lady Toppers take down Old Dominion for 17th straight home C-USA win

Freshman guard Terri Smith drives toward the basket as Old Dominion guard Victoria Morris defends her. WKU Lady Toppers played Old Dominion on Feb. 8 at E.A. Diddle Arena. The Toppers won 62-48.

Tyler Mansfield

WKU women’s basketball used a momentum-swinging second quarter to record a 62-48 win over Old Dominion University for its 17th straight league victory in Diddle Arena, a streak dating back to Feb. 25, 2016.

The Lady Toppers (18-5 overall, 9-1 Conference USA) led for 34:39 of the game’s 40 minutes and earned solid performances from senior Tashia Brown and freshman Sherry Porter. Brown led the way with a game high 23 points and 11 rebounds, while Porter finished with 12 as WKU won its sixth straight contest.

Despite the victory, WKU head coach Michelle Clark-Heard wasn’t exactly pleased with her team’s energy throughout the game.

“I’ll take the W,” Clark-Heard said. “I mean, we’re 9-1. It wasn’t one of the best basketball games we’ve played, but we found a way. Our energy, I was a little disappointed. This year we’ve been really good at bringing energy, but we didn’t have it – we were flat.”

Both sides struggled shooting the ball, but WKU went 23-of-33 from the free-throw line to make up for it. Defensively, the Lady Toppers forced ODU into 12 turnovers and turned those takeaways into 15 points on the other end of the court.

ODU jumped out to a quick 4-0 lead before Brown answered with a baseline drive and layup to give WKU its first points of the night. The Lady Toppers earned their first lead of 5-4 after Porter split a pair of free throws at the 5:30 mark of the first quarter.

“We were flat in the first half. I felt like we picked it up a little bit in the second half, but we’ve got to be better than that,” Clark-Heard said. “That’s what I talked to the team about at the end of the game. We’ve got to move forward.”

Brown made four straight free throws to push WKU’s lead to 11-6, and Porter’s jumper and Ivy Brown free throws extended the Lady Toppers’ run to 10-0 and gave them a 17-10 advantage after one period.

WKU controlled the tempo in the second quarter and used multiple 3-pointers to increase its lead.

Tashia Brown’s step-back jumper from the right baseline put WKU up 22-13, but Victoria Morris scored inside to cut ODU’s deficit to seven. The Lady Monarchs got within four at 22-18 before Porter answered with a left corner jumper to make it 24-18 at the 4:31 mark of the second.

“It wasn’t our best basketball and definitely not our best game,” Tashia Brown said. “We just had to keep moving, get stops when we needed ‘em and just try to stay ahead.”

Terri Smith’s 3-pointer put the Lady Toppers up by nine at 27-18, and Ivy Brown followed up with one of her own to give WKU a double-digit lead of 31-20 with less than a minute left in the first half.

Another 3-pointer – this one from Smith – sent WKU into the locker room at halftime with a 34-22 advantage. The Lady Toppers shot 42 percent from the field in the opening half and forced six turnovers, scoring nine points off those. Tashia was up to 12 points at the break.

“It’s always good when the freshman can come in for us,” Tashia said. “Like Terri, she came in and hit a big three, and I think that was a momentum changer. It’s always good when they can come in and get some good valuable minutes.”

Taylor Edwards was leading ODU with seven points and finished with 16 for the Lady Monarchs (5-19, 3-7).

WKU maintained its lead throughout the second half, but ODU kept battling.

“It was pretty exciting,” Porter said. “When coach calls our number, we just have to be ready, so that’s what we did. We went out there and tried to do our best.”

The Lady Toppers’ lead grew to 39-24 early in the third quarter courtesy of a basket by Porter, but like in the opening half, ODU answered and cut WKU’s advantage to 40-28 at the five-minute mark.

WKU regrouped and built a 49-30 lead with just under three minutes remaining in the quarter, and it was later up 51-33 entering the fourth. It went up 20 at 55-35 with 5:59 left and was able to hold on for the remainder of the affair.

WKU now faces a quick turnaround, as it travels to Houston, Texas, for a C-USA matchup at Rice on Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m. The Owls are currently in third place in the league standings and 9-0 at home this season.

“It’s going to be really tough,” Clark-Heard said about the trip to Rice. “They’re the best 3-point shooting team in the league. They play unbelievable at home. They run a Princeton offense where’s there’s a lot of passing and cutting, and they’re just really smart and they play hard.

“It’s going to be a challenge for us.”

Sports Reporter Tyler Mansfield can be reached at 270-935-0007 and [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @_TylerMansfield.