Lady Tops finish undefeated against C-USA at home

Sam Porter

In just its third year in Conference USA, the WKU Women’s basketball team accomplished something few programs accomplish each year across college basketball: finishing undefeated at home in their respective conference.

The Lady Tops capped off the regular season this past week with wins over Charlotte and Old Dominion University. WKU finished 9-0 against C-USA opponents and 14-1 overall at home

“Every year we set goals. One of those goals is to be undefeated at home in the conference,” Head Coach Michelle Clark-Heard said. “Over the past four years, we’ve found a way to lose one or two at home. It’s a big deal for us. I talk to them all the time about going in day in and day out and finding ways to win in a tough conference.”

Earlier this season, the Lady Tops suffered their first conference loss of the season in an 89-85 overtime loss against Charlotte. Last Thursday, the Lady Tops overcame a double-digit deficit to avenge that loss in a 75-74 thriller in E.A. Diddle Arena.

Redshirt senior guard Kendall Noble led WKU with 23 points while junior forwards Kyvin Goodin-Rogers and Ivy Brown also broke double figures. The Lady 49ers jumped on the Lady Tops early as WKU once again struggled defensively against the Charlotte attack. The Lady 49ers and took a 30-17 lead midway through the second quarter before the Lady Tops slowly trimmed their way into the deficit; junior forward Tashia Brown’s three pointer right before the half cut the deficit to 38-32 at the half.

“We made some mistakes changing up our defenses early on,” Clark-Heard said after the game. “The reason they’re so hard to guard is because they have players that can drive well, players that can shoot well and players that can play the post well. They have all three.”

After Charlotte’s Nyilah Jamison-Myers opened the second half with a bucket, the Lady Topper offense came to life. After sitting out most of the first half due to foul trouble, Ivy Brown hit three three-pointers that sparked a 19-5 run to give WKU their first lead since the first quarter. The lead gave WKU a 51-45 lead that wasn’t given up the rest of the game. Soon after, the Lady Tops went on a 9-2 run capped off by freshman guard Whitney Creech’s three pointer that pushed the WKU lead to double digits late in the third quarter.

“Our first half wasn’t very good, but we came out in that third quarter and really made a statement,” Creech said after the game. “When coach subs in, we try not to lose the momentum and chemistry that was in there. That’s what I try to do; bring energy and help the team any way I can.”

WKU’s lead grew to as many as 13 points. However, similar to the first meeting a late Lady 49er brought Charlotte back into the ball game. Trailing by one with one second left, Charlotte had one chance to hand WKU their first home conference loss of the season. Charlotte’s Ciara Gregory had a look at the bucket, but her shot was just off the mark as WKU held on for the narrow one-point victory.

Two days later, WKU hosted Old Dominion on senior day. Senior guards Kendall Noble, Micah Jones and Ima Akpan were honored following a 79-73 victory. Noble and Jones combined for 39 points as WKU never trailed once in the regular season home finale.

“It’s super special,” Noble said about getting the win on senior day. “It would’ve kind of ruined the day if we had lost, but our teammates played hard and we got the win so now we can celebrate.”

After the Lady Tops jumped up early 27-18 early, the Lady Monarchs went on a 9-2 run to cut the WKU lead to 2 points. However, the Lady Tops answered with a 9-1 run of their own to push the lead to 10 points. Leading 38-33 late in the first half, Jones banked a three before the buzzer to give WKU an eight-point lead. Jones finished with 21 points of 6-8 from three point range.

“It was great to see her shoot that way. She deserves it,” Noble said about Jones.

“She works harder than anyone on her shot and I’m glad it finally paid off.”

The win improves WKU to 22-6 (14-2 C-USA) and keeps them atop the C-USA standings. The Lady Tops travel to Denton, Texas on Thursday for a match-up against North Texas. With a win against UNT or on Saturday against Rice University, the Lady Tops will clinch the regular season C-USA title and the number one seed in the conference tournament.

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