Career performances lead Lady Toppers past FIU

Senior guard Ima Akpan (20) drives to the basket while Indiana Hoosiers Senior center Jenn Anderson (43) defends during the Lady Toppers’ 85-74 win against Indiana University Saturday Nov. 19, 2016 at E.A. Diddle Arena.

Tyler Mansfield

From the opening tipoff to the final buzzer, WKU’s women’s basketball team controlled the its game against Florida International University on Sunday afternoon at E.A. Diddle Arena as the Lady Toppers won 90-38.

Redshirt junior forward Kyvin Goodin-Rogers led the charge for WKU on Sunday by scoring 18 points and grabbing 7 rebounds.

Junior forward Ivy Brown dropped 11 points and pulled down 11 boards while senior guard Ima Akpan added a production of 18 points.

Goodin-Rogers (while at WKU) and Akpan both registered new career highs in points while Brown recorded her sixth double-double of the season.

“It’s great,” redshirt senior guard Kendall Noble said. “I love when people can contribute and I know Coach Heard does to and that just makes us a better team.”

The Lady Toppers (10-4 overall, 2-0 Conference USA) shot 35-of-72 from the field on the day and led for the entire course of the contest, never allowing the Panthers (2-11 overall, 0-2 Conference USA) to get into a rhythm.

WKU’s win marked its fifth-straight and improved its all-time record in the series against FIU to 28-9. The Lady Tops have also now won four-straight meetings in the all-time series.

“I thought we played good both games (vs. FAU/FIU),” Noble stated. “It was a good home stretch for us. I think it’s gave us a bit of confidence going into these big conference games on the road – so hopefully it can carry over.”

At the 5:08 mark of the opening quarter, FIU Head Coach Tiara Malcom was forced to call a timeout as the Lady Toppers were on a 6-0 run and held an early 9-2 advantage. Noble already have 4 points and a pair of rebounds at that point.

WKU continued to control the affair as it went on to score 17 points to the Panthers’ two throughout the remainder of the first quarter and led 26-4 after 10 minutes of action.

“I’m just really proud of our group on how we came out and how we focused and doing the things we needed to do,” WKU Head Coach Michelle Clark-Heard said. “I’m really proud of how we came out and played.”

Florida International responded and scored 11 points in the second quarter, but it still wasn’t enough to try and even cut into the Lady Tops’ big lead.

Akpan and redshirt sophomore guard Jaycee Coe both came off the bench and contributed in big ways; Akpan scored 7 points and recorded two assists while Coe scored six points in just five minutes.

The two’s production helped WKU hold a 41-15 lead heading into the locker room at halftime.

Western Kentucky went 16-of-37 from the floor in the first 20 minutes and forced 21 Florida International turnovers while only committing six of its own.

“Coach Heard preaches about defense all of the time and we work on it a lot in practice and she’s been big on having energy and coming out fast and playing hard – and I think we did that,” redshirt senior guard Micah Jones noted.

Goodin-Rogers led the way with 10 points at halftime while Brown had seven points and seven rebounds. Noble, at the time, had 4 points, 5 rebounds and 6 assists. FIU, as a team, shot 7-of-20 in the half.

WKU was outscoring the Panthers 17-8 so far into the third quarter with 2:35 remaining in the period, leading 58-23. Western went on to score seven more points in the 10-minute segment and held a 65-27 advantage heading into the final period of play.

“Everybody’s clicking,” Jones said. “We’ve got great chemistry out there (on the court) and we’re having fun. We play really well together and it just makes things easier.”

As they were already up big, the Lady Toppers went on to outscore Florida International 25-11 with mostly bench players participating in the fourth quarter and rolled to another victory.

Kiandre’a Pound scored 12 points to lead the Panthers while Janka Hegedus added 9 points.

WKU returns to action on Thursday, Jan. 5 as it plays at Charlotte at 10:30 a.m. CST.

“We need to keep growing,” Clark-Heard added. “You want to start peaking at the right time. I think we’re learning. From non-conference to where we are now, I do see a growth; and I’m excited about that. I think we just have to stay focused and on-track and take it one game at a time.”

Reporter Tyler Mansfield can be reached at 270-745-6291 and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @_TylerMansfield.