Red-hot Hilltoppers host Mississippi Valley State Tuesday

WKU senior forward Tashia Brown (10) drives in for a layup during WKU’s game vs Notre Dame on Nov 14, 2017 in E.A. Diddle Arena. WKU lost 65-78.

Tyler Mansfield

Riding a four-game winning streak, the WKU women’s basketball team returns home on Tuesday to host Mississippi Valley State at 5:30 p.m. inside Diddle Arena. 

After suffering a trio of tough loses to top-tier competition in Iowa, Notre Dame and Indiana, the Lady Toppers (5-3) have used their impressive performances in those games to only turn themselves into a dominant team.

With commanding victories over Evansville and Southern Illinois in its last two outings, WKU is playing at a very high level with the non-conference portion of its schedule winding down. However, head coach Michelle Clark-Heard said there are still things her team needs to improve on.

“We’ve been working a lot defensively. I’m not happy that we’re 13th in the conference as far as giving up points,” Clark-Heard said. “We’ve been focusing a lot on defense and how we need to be more aggressive and the things we need to do for us as a team. Then, we’ve been working individually and trying to get better.”

The work and preparation the Lady Toppers have been doing defensively showed Sunday in their 75-49 win at Southern Illinois. WKU held the Salukis to 35 percent shooting from the field, including a 15 percent showing from 3-point range. Additionally, WKU forced 15 turnovers and tallied 10 steals.

Clark-Heard also said that one of the main reasons for the defensive lapses were rebounding issues. The improvement in that category was there against SIU, as the Lady Toppers won the rebounding battle 42-29 with an 18-13 edge on the offensive glass.

In the Lady Toppers’ victory over the Salukis, Ivy Brown matched a program record with 16 points in the third quarter while both she and Tashia Brown each finished with 20 points, giving WKU at least one 20-point scorer in seven of its first eight games this year. 

“Great team win today,” Clark-Heard posted in a tweet following Sunday’s win in Carbondale, Illinois. “Everyday is a journey towards our goals. We are a work in progress but I love how we are growing.” She also included the hashtag “#MarathonNotASprint,” one she has used multiple times this season. 

Sunday marked WKU’s third double-digit win and moved its average margin of victory over those three contests to 25 points. It’ll look to claim another big win Tuesday when it hosts MVSU in Bowling Green. 

The Devilettes – currently off to an 0-6 start to the season – are coming off an 85-46 loss to Massachusetts on Dec. 2 in the UTRGV Tournament in Edinburg, Texas. Mississippi Valley State is averaging just 58 points per game compared to its opponents’ 84, so Tuesday’s matchup certainly favors WKU.

MVSU is led by Kristy Parker, LaKendra Bassett and Desiray Mosley, a trio that scores in double figures each time out and averages 40 of the Devilettes’ 58 points per game. In its loss to UMass, Mississippi Valley State was led by Parker’s 16-point, five-rebound performance. 

Through the first eight games of the season, the senior duo of Ivy and Tashia Brown continue to lead WKU, as Tashia is averaging 21.6 points per game while Ivy is scoring 15 and grabbing nine rebounds per outing. Right behind them, sophomore Whitney Creech is scoring 11.4 each time out. 

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