Lady Topper hoops return home to host Evansville

WKU junior Kayla Smith (32) shoots a deep three pointer during WKU’s game vs. Notre Dame on Nov 14, 2017 in E.A. Diddle Arena. The Lady Toppers lost 78-65.

Tyler Mansfield

After playing its last three games on the road, the WKU women’s basketball team returns to E.A. Diddle Arena Thursday to host Evansville in a 7 p.m. contest.

On a successful trip, the Lady Toppers (3-3 overall) went 2-1, winning a pair of tight games against Mercer and Georgia State to claim the Georgia State Thanksgiving Classic championship while suffering a tough 73-71 loss at Indiana.

“I think the most important thing is that we grew up,” head coach Michelle Clark-Heard said. “I think we had a lot of different people step up, and a lot of people did a lot of different things.”

In Atlanta, WKU faced late deficits in both of its two outings but responded effectively by using its consistency to pull through against a pair of tough opponents.

Against Mercer, the Lady Toppers faced their first deficit of the night with just 90 seconds remaining but rallied to score 10 of the game’s final 12 points to earn a 67-62 victory.

They had to battle yet again Sunday with the host Georgia State, and, for another game, Tashia Brown helped lead WKU to victory.

The senior athlete averaged 21 points in the tournament at GSU and is currently averaging 8 points and shooting 40 percent in the fourth quarter.

“I just kind of do whatever it takes to come out with the victory, whether that’s to score a lot or do whatever I have to do. That’s just my plan,” Brown said. “I’m always in an attack mode, and I’m always in tunnel vision trying to do whatever I can for the team.”

WKU trailed 38-35 at halftime and then by as many as seven points three different times in the third quarter but, from that point, responded with eight straight points to take a 46-45 advantage. WKU put its foot on the gas in the fourth and outscored the Panthers 22-12 while forcing 10 turnovers to secure a 74-63 win for its first true road victory of the year.

Evansville travels to Bowling Green following a 79-53 home win over Westminster (Missouri) last Tuesday. The Purple Aces – who sport a 2-2 record so far into the 2017-18 season – were led by Brooke Dossett’s 21 points, five assists and five rebounds in the victory.

The Purples Aces shot 48 percent (31-of-65) from the field on the night and outrebounded Westminster 52-42. Evansville used a 25-point fourth quarter – and 18 points from Hannah Noe to go along with Dossett’s big outing – to seal the win.

“I think you just respect everyone,” Clark-Heard said of her team’s opponent in Evansville. “They have guards that are really quick, they have a big kid on the inside that is really dominant, and for us, that’s always kind of been a struggle. We’re gonna have to play really good defense and gonna have to do the things that we need to.”

As WKU leads the all-time series 8-1 against Evansville, the two sides haven’t met since a 75-56 Lady Topper win on Nov. 16, 2007 at Diddle Arena.

“I’m really excited for the team just to be able to sleep in their own beds and to be able to come out in front of the home crowd,” said Clark-Heard. “We had a stretch over the weekend where we didn’t come out and play a whole 40 minutes, we’re ready to come out and do that in front of the home crowd.”

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