WKU travels to undefeated Ball State

Junior forward Tasha Brown (10) drives to the net for a layup during the Lady Toppers’ 67-58 win against Louisiana Tech on Thursday, Feb. 2, 2017at Diddle Arena. Jack Atkerson/ Herald

Tyler Mansfield

After earlier match-ups this season against teams like No. 2 Notre Dame, No. 16 Missouri, No. 25 Iowa and Indiana, the WKU women’s basketball team will face another tough non-conference test on Thursday as it travels to Muncie, Indiana to take on Ball State at 6 p.m.

BSU, which posts a perfect 10-0 record, is off to a hot start in 2017. The Cardinals have secured wins at Vanderbilt and Purdue and won at home over Butler. Most recently, BSU recorded an 89-57 victory against Austin Peay on Monday.

“They’re playing really, really well,” WKU head coach Michelle Clark-Heard said of BSU. “They have an unbelievable point guard who can pass the ball, can score and they have players that can shoot it. When you have kids who can shoot it from deep – and they have three or four that are shooting in high percentages – it just really helps your team.

“They switch up defenses and do a lot of different things and they’re just playing really well right now.” 

The Cardinals currently have five different players who score in double figures. Moriah Monaco leads the charge with 16.3 points per game while Destiny Washington is averaging 13.0 and Carmen Grande – the flashy point guard Clark-Heard referred to – is right behind her with 12.8 per outing. Grande has also dished out 99 total assists this season.

Just behind that trio, Jasmin Samz is scoring 11.9 PPG and Frannie Frazier is averaging 10.7, making for an all-around offensive group.

“We just have to make sure that we definitely know our scout and know what players can do,” Clark-Heard said. “Everyone is going to have to understand that we can’t give up wide open threes and can’t have the point guard being able to get the ball where she wants, when she wants. We’re gonna have to disrupt her and keep her on her toes as much as possible.”

WKU (8-3) is coming off a 2-0 showing in the West Palm Invitational in West Palm Beach, Florida last weekend. In its tournament opener, WKU won 66-58 over Stetson before following up with a 70-56 win against Toledo the next day.

With the pair of victories, the Lady Toppers’ winning streak is now up to seven games. 

“The biggest thing was just being able to go down there and play as a team,” Tashia Brown said of WKU’s trip to the West Palm Invitational. “Just working on things we need to as we get ready to go into Conference (USA play) so we can be successful. We’re a good spot right now but, of course, we want to be better.” 

Brown – who is currently averaging 22.9 PPG – continues to lead all of C-USA in scoring and now has seven straight 20 point games for WKU, the longest such stretch by any Lady Topper since Crystal Kelly had nine straight in 2006-07. 

Over the course of the Lady Toppers’ two games against Stetson and Toledo, Brown averaged 26.5 points. Along with her performances, Ivy Brown tallied a pair of double-doubles while Raneem Elgedawy recorded a double-double in WKU’s win over Stetson.

“I think she is working to be the best that she can be,” said Clark-Heard of Tashia Brown. “I challenge her more defensively. She’s doing a great job, but I just want her to be the best she can be. Rebounding – I really push her to do those things a little bit more because I think she can.

“I’m excited to have the opportunity to coach her every game because she is one of those players that just wants to win.”

As WKU is ranked No. 34 in the latest NCAA RPI rankings, BSU comes in at No. 28. The home team has won each of the last four meetings between WKU and BSU.

WKU will be trying for its first win in Muncie since winning 61-58 on Nov. 16, 2009. 

“They just have a lot of weapons,” Brown said. “They’re very well coached and they do a lot of good things. They’re playing very well right now. We’ve just gotta follow the game plan and we’ll be successful.”

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