Lady Tops rolling into Texas

Senior Guard Kendall Noble (12) drives in toward the basket as Marshall University junior Guard Taylor Porter (13) defends her during the first half of the Lady Toppers 73-57 win over Marshall on Saturday Jan. 21, 2017 at Diddle Arena.

Sam Porter

A big reason why the WKU women’s basketball team was named the outright favorite to win the Conference USA tournament before the season began was because of the 27-7 mark the Lady Toppers finished with, losing only three games in conference play.

However, the main reason the Lady Tops earned the title of preseason favorite was because of the players they returned.

With junior forwards Tashia Brown and Ivy Brown returning alongside reigning C-USA Player of the Year Kendall Noble, Head Coach Michelle Clark-Heard has a “Big Three” to rely on yet again. 

“That really started last year when Micah Jones went down,” Clark-Heard said. “I’m a firm believer that if you have three players that can consistently show up for you, then you will have a lot of opportunities to win games. I’m really fortunate to coach those three.”

Last season, Noble became just the sixth player to win a conference player of the year award. During her C-USA player of the year campaign, Noble averaged 18.5 points , 7.5 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 2.6 steals per game. So far in her redshirt senior campaign, Noble has put up similar numbers, averaging 14.9 points, 6.5 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game, and is an early favorite to contend for C-USA player of the year for the second straight year. 

Tashia Brown was just behind Noble averaging 17.5 PPG last season which ranked fourth in C-USA. 

Ivy Brown, who finished fourth in rebounding in C-USA last season, is once again averaging 8.6 boards per contest in 2016-17 with 13.7 points to go along with it.  

“Some games, some shots aren’t going to fall,” Tashia Brown said. “So it’s always good to have teammates like Ivy and Kendall to be able to back you up if somebody doesn’t show up.”

So far in the 2016-17 season, WKU boasts a 14-5 record (6-1 C-USA) and sits tied atop the conference with UNC-Charlotte and Middle Tennessee State, whom they defeated handily at home. 

The road ahead doesn’t get much easier for the Lady Tops as they begin their first leg of a Texas road trip doubleheader on Thursday against the University of Texas El-Paso. 

Last season, the Miners edged out WKU for the regular season C-USA championship. However, UTEP is just 5-13 overall this season. Despite not having the same success as last year, Clark-Heard said she isn’t overlooking anyone in C-USA.

“In conference, we do not look at the other team’s record,” Clark-Heard said. “Every record is thrown out the window, especially when we go on the road.”

Last season, the UTEP Lady Miners defeated the Lady Tops 85-78 at Diddle Arena en route to finishing as the C-USA regular season champions. The Lady Tops will seek revenge against the Miners this time around.

“They lost a lot of players from last year but they still have scorers and huge big inside that is averaging a double-double,” Clark-Heard said. “You look at us, we don’t have a lot of height.”

Two days later after they play UTEP, the Lady Tops will play at University of Texas San-Antonio, who currently sits at fourth in the C-USA standings. If the Lady Tops can keep their momentum going in the right direction and escape Texas with two road victories, they will have won 11 out of their last 12 games and at worst, will still be tied for first  place in the C-USA.

“It’s almost February,” Clark-Heard said. “This is the time that you work for. We just want to keep working on the things we need to so that when February hits, we’ll be playing our best basketball.”

Reporter Sam Porter can be reached at 270-745-6291 and [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @SammyP14.