BASKETBALL SPECIAL: Lady Tops show talent in exhibition

WKU’s senior Ima Akpan (20) dives for a loose ball against a couple of Young Harris College defenders during the Lady Topper’s 98-51win on Thursday Nov. 03, 2016 at E.A. Diddle arena.

Sam Porter

The WKU faithful got their first glimpse of the WKU women’s basketball team last Thursday when the Lady Toppers hosted Young Harris College in an exhibition game at Diddle Arena.

The preseason Conference USA favorites jumped out to an early lead and never looked back, cruising to a 98-51 victory against the Division II school from North Georgia.

Five different Lady Toppers scored in double figures, including University of Kentucky transfer and redshirt sophomore guard Jaycee Coe who led all scorers with 19 points after shooting 6-10 from 3-point range.

Coe came off the bench with 7:02 to play in the first quarter. With the Lady Tops already nursing an early 11-1 lead, the former Wildcat drained her first three-point attempt in a Lady Topper uniform to extend the lead to 14-1.

“It felt great to finally get out there after a year and a half of not playing,” Coe said about her debut at WKU. “It was fun and it makes me excited for the next game. At first, I was a little nervous, but after I hit my first shot I just felt comfortable.”

Coe went on to hit two more threes in the first quarter as the Lady Tops built a 24-10 entering the second quarter.

After opening up the second quarter on a 16-2 run to make the score 36-12, Coe struck again from the three point line to extend the lead over the Mountain Lions to 27 points.

Shortly after, junior forward Tashia Brown’s bucket and the foul gave the Lady Tops a 42-14 lead with 5:48 to play in the first half.

After the two teams went back and forth, sophomore forward Kayla Smith hit a late three-pointer to give the Lady Tops a 51-25 halftime lead.

Redshirt senior guard Kendall Noble took her only shot in the first half which she missed. The defending C-USA player of the year finished 0-1 from the field with three rebounds and three assists.

“Everybody else got a lot of shots,” Head Coach Michelle Clark-Heard said about Noble going scoreless. “That is just who Kendall is. I think she understands that there are a lot of different players on this team. She did a good job letting the new faces get a feel for the game. We had five players that were playing with us for the first time. I know Kendall wants them to be the best they can be.”

Early in the third quarter, Coe’s three pointer and free throw after being fouled, followed by Smith’s steal and easy bucket extended the lead to 72-40.

Later in the quarter, freshman guard and former Miss Kentucky basketball Whitney Creech scored her first collegiate bucket to give the Lady Tops a 76-30 lead. The Lady Tops went on to cruise to win by a final score of 98-51.

For the season, the Lady Tops return their six top scorers from last year along with redshirt senior guard Micah Jones, who missed all of last season due to injury.

Noble and Brown both return as members of the C-USA Preseason First Team as Noble was also named the conference’s Preseason Player of the Year.

All of the returning production from last year’s team combined with return of Jones and the addition of two University of Kentucky Transfers (Coe and redshirt junior guard Kyvin Goodin-Rogers) will make the Lady Tops a formidable foe for their opponents all season long.

The Lady Tops will host Alabama A&M in their season opener on Friday 7 p.m. in Diddle Arena. The Lady Bulldogs lost their only exhibition game 85-59 to North Alabama last Friday and went just 5-25 a year ago.

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