Lady Toppers using consistency to win tight games

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

WKU is finding ways to win close games.

After facing late deficits in their last two outings, the Lady Toppers responded effectively, using their consistency to pull through against a pair of tough opponents in Mercer and Georgia State to win the Georgia State Thanksgiving Classic.

Against Mercer, WKU jumped out to a 15-4 lead after the first quarter but was outscored by the Bears, 44-37, throughout the next two periods to hold a slim 52-48 advantage entering the fourth.

Facing their first deficit of the night with just 90 seconds remaining, the Lady Toppers rallied to score 10 of the game’s final 12 points to earn a 67-62 victory. All 10 of WKU’s points during the stretch came at the free throw line while freshman Sherry Porter, who made her first career start, sealed the win with two free throws of her own with just five seconds left.

“Proud of the fight in our team tonight,” WKU head coach Michelle Clark-Heard said in a tweet following her team’s win over Mercer. “Wasn’t pretty but we figured it out against a very good Mercer team.”

Following Friday’s victory to open their play in the tournament, the Lady Toppers were tested again Sunday against host Georgia State.

WKU trailed 38-35 at halftime and then by as many as seven points three different times in the third quarter, the final time coming on a fast-break layup by the Bears’ Madison Newby at the 6:08 mark that put the Lady Toppers in a 46-39 hole. But, from that point, they answered with eight straight points to take a 46-45 advantage.

From there, WKU’s lead grew to as many as four but GSU responded with a 3-point play to make it 52-51 in the Lady Toppers’ favor entering the final quarter.

WKU put its foot on the gas in the fourth and outscored the Panthers 22-12 while forcing 10 turnovers – which led to 11 points at the other end – to secure a 74-63 win for its first true road victory of the year.

“Great team win today against a very good Georgia State team!,” Clark-Heard posted on Twitter Sunday evening. “So proud of how the team stepped up to the challenge at halftime. Anytime you can get a road win it is a plus.”

In Friday’s win over Mercer, WKU senior forward Ivy Brown surpassed 1,000 points in her Lady Topper career on her first basket of the night. Now the 39th member of WKU’s 1,000-point club, Brown finished with 21 points and 14 rebounds to record her first double-double of the season.

Coach Heard was proud of her four-year player’s accomplishment, posting this tweet:

Following their championship, WKU returns home to host Evansville on Thursday at 7 p.m. inside E.A. Diddle Arena. It will be the Lady Toppers’ first home game since Nov. 14 against Notre Dame.

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