Lady Tops take huge stride in weekend sweep

WKU Lady Toppers forward Tashia Brown (10) looks to pass as she is defended by a Southern Miss player during the Lady Toppers’ 79-53 win over Southern Miss on Saturday Feb. 4, 2017 in Diddle Arena.

Sam Porter

The WKU Women’s basketball team did a lot more than win two Conference USA games on the road this past weekend.

With two wins over Middle Tennessee and Alabama Birmingham, the Lady Tops reached the 20 win mark for the fifth time in five seasons under head coach Michelle Clark-Heard.

The Lady Tops also took complete control of first place in C-USA with a 12-2 in-conference record, holding on to a one and a half game lead over MTSU who was one of WKU’s two victims this past weekend.

“I’m just really excited for our team,” Clark-Heard said in a radio post-game show. “This win was for Alexis Govan, Chastity Gooch, and all the other players that haven’t been able to win here for so many years. This win was for them. It just means a lot.”

As far as individuals go, redshirt senior Micah Jones became the 38th player in program history to reach the 1,000 career-point mark. Jones joins redshirt senior Kendall Noble and junior forward Tashia Brown as 1,000-point scorers currently on the WKU roster. With four games left in the regular season, the Lady Tops need to win at least three of those to clinch the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament and the regular season championship.

Backtrack to Thursday night when the Lady Tops headed to Murfreesboro, a place they hadn’t won in 13 years, to take on MTSU in a game that would decide first place in the conference.

Despite giving up 33 points to MTSU forward Alex Johnson, WKU outlasted the Lady Blue Raiders 82-75 to end the 13-year drought and take control of first place. Tashia Brown led the Lady Tops with 25 points herself while four of her teammates also broke double figures.

“This was a game where I saw everybody step up,” Clark-Heard said. “Our seniors, Tashia and Ivy, and our bench all played their part. Different people stepped up, and that’s a key reason why we came out with a win.”

Neither team pulled ahead early on. WKU led 19-15 in the first quarter until the Lady Blue Raiders went on a 9-0 run to surge ahead. However, the Lady Tops responded. Ivy Brown drained a three that gave WKU a lead that sparked a Lady Topper run. WKU hit four three pointers down the stretch of the first half to build their lead. With a 42-35 lead late in the second quarter, sophomore guard Sidnee Bopp’s three pointer with 11 seconds left gave WKU a double digit lead at the half.

Just two minutes into the second half, MTSU found an answer. The Lady Blue Raiders went on a 12-1 run to steal the lead midway through the third quarter. Trailing 58-57, WKU went on a 6-0 spurt, capped off by a Tashia Brown jumper to take a five-point lead. MTSU’s Alex Johnson answered with a layup to make it a one possession game going into the final quarter.

Clinging to a 71-67 lead, MTSU’s Abbey Sissom nailed a three to trim the lead to one point with just over five minutes to play. Tashia and Ivy Brown both hit jumpers to make it a two possession game once again. From that point on, the Lady Blue Raiders never got any closer as WKU pulled away for the 82-75 victory to take first place.

Clark-Heard and company didn’t have much time to celebrate as they traveled to Birmingham, Alabama for another conference showdown on Saturday. Thanks to 26 points (21 in the second half) from Noble, the Lady Tops defeated the Lady Blazers 62-52 in Bartow Arena.

With a 38-37 lead late in the third quarter, Micah Jones cemented herself in program history.

The Greensburg, Kentucky, native drained a three to give her 1,000 career points to become just the 38th player in program history to do so. Jones finished the game with 16 points, giving her 1,009 for her career in red and white, to help the Lady Tops pull away for the 10 point victory.

Thanks to the regular season sweep of the Lady Blue Raiders, the Lady Tops will be crowned the regular season champions if the two teams finish with the same record in conference.

WKU will continue their quest of the regular season championship against Charlotte, who boasts a 17-8 (9-5 C-USA) record, this Thursday at Diddle Arena at 7 p.m. The Lady Tops will look to avenge an 89-85 overtime loss earlier this year in Charlotte. 

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