Lady Tops look to payback Charlotte

Sam Porter

Despite a five-game win streak and complete control of first place in Conference USA, there’s still plenty on the line tonight for the WKU women’s basketball team.

The Lady Tops (20-6, 12-2 C-USA) need to win three of  their last four games to clinch the regular season C-USA championship and the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament.

WKU will look to avenge one of its two conference losses on Thursday when  the University of North Carolina-Charlotte visits Diddle Arena. Earlier this season, Charlotte defeated WKU 89-85 in overtime at the Dale F. Halton Arena in Charlotte, North Carolina. In that game, redshirt senior Kendall Noble led WKU with 27 points and 11 rebounds.

“We didn’t play very well against Charlotte in that first game,” Noble said.“We gave up 89 points. We know they’re hungry for a win, and we’re expecting a really tough game. We’re going to have to be focused and locked in.”

The matchup pits the top two scoring offenses in C-USA against each other. WKU comes in averaging a conference-high 75.3 points per game while Charlotte sits right behind them at 73.2. The 89 points scored against WKU in the first matchup still stands as the most points scored against the Lady Tops this season. Part of the reason the Lady 49ers have had so much success offensively is due to their ability to score in a number of ways.

“I think they’re solid all around,” redshirt senior guard Micah Jones said. “Their posts and guards can both do a lot of things. That’s why they’re so good. They can spread you out, and they have a lot of threats. We just can’t let them get hot like they did in the first meeting.”

The Lady 49ers come in to  tonight’s game as the only team in C-USA to have four players averaging double figures. Grace Hunter, who led the team with 32 points in the first matchup, leads the Lady 49ers at 17.3 points per game. Joining Hunter in double figures are senior guards Ciara Gregory (14.4 ppg) and Lefty Webster (13.2 ppg), and forward Nyilah Jamsion-Myers (11.4 ppg). 

“We’ve got to change up our defense and make sure we can slow the ball down,” Head Coach Michelle Clark-Heard said about defending the Charlotte attack.

“They are very good at getting the ball out really quick and getting up the floor. In that first meeting, we didn’t force them to use much of the shot clock. This time around, we have to make sure we’re locked in defensively.”

Charlotte will look to become the first C-USA team to sweep the Lady Tops since WKU made the jump to C-USA in 2014. However, the Lady 49ers will have to do something that many teams have struggled to do this season: win in Diddle.

The Lady tops boast an 11-game home winning streak and a 12-1 overall record at home this season. As far as C-USA opponents go, the Lady Tops are 7-0 at home with an average margin of victory of 22.1 per game.

“We went back and watched film from the first game, and we definitely had to clean up a lot of things,” Clark-Heard said. “We shot the ball well, it was a high-scoring game. I don’t think either team was happy with the way they played defense, but I’m sure they were happy to come out with the win.”

Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. Thursday in Diddle Arena.

Reporter Sam Porter can be reached at 270-799-8247 and [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @SammyP14.