WKU to host first round of WNIT in Diddle tonight

WKU’s guard Kendall Noble (12) is closely guarded by Marshall’s guard Norrisha Victim (20) during the final seconds of the Lady Topper’s 63-66 loss in the quarterfinals of the C-USA tournament Thursday at Bartow Arena in Birmingham, Ala. Mike Clark/HERALD

Evan Heichelbech

The Lady Toppers (24-6, 15-3) will host the University of Dayton (14-14, 7-9) in Diddle Arena tonight at 7 p.m. in the Women’s National Invitational Tournament.

“It is exciting to play in the NIT,” Head Coach Michelle Clark-Heard said. “There is a lot of teams that are not playing anymore and we are excited to have this opportunity.”

WKU and Dayton have played 11 times previously, with WKU holding a 10-1 series record against the Flyers. The last meeting between the two schools came on Feb. 11, 1991, when WKU notched an 87-80 victory over Dayton.

One year removed from a 28-7 record and an Elite Eight run in the 2015 NCAA Tournament, Dayton opened the 2015-2016 season with a 7-1 record including victories over NCAA Tournament teams Princeton and Louisville. The Flyers also beat Wisconsin and Vanderbilt.

“Their size across the board I think is a mixture of a lot of different teams,” Clark-Heard said. “They have some guards that can really shoot it. They have a point guard who is really, really good.”

On average, Dayton holds its opponents to 36.5 percent shooting and averages 41 rebounds per game.

WKU grabs 38 boards per game with a +2.7 rebounding margin. The Lady Toppers shoot the ball at a 42.7 percent clip from the field.

Dayton presents an extremely balanced attack with all five starters averaging 10.4 points per game or better. The Flyers are led by Amber Deane at 15.3 points per game and rotation players Jodie Cornelie-Sigmundova and Celeste Edwards averaging a combined 16.9 points off the bench.

Even with multiple scoring options and quality wins on its roster, Dayton will not be favored over WKU in the first-round match up.

The Lady Toppers also defeated Louisville on Nov. 21, 71-69, and own victories over NCAA Tournament teams in Belmont University and Middle Tennessee University (1-1), and have plenty of capable scorers as well.

“This is going to be a tough ballgame for us,” Clark-Heard said. “It will be a good ball game. A lot of people don’t understand the history of Dayton, but if you go back and read a little bit they were only down to UCONN last year in the tournament by a couple of points.”

Clark-Heard has experience in the WNIT at WKU, as the Lady Toppers also hosted a first round game in 2012-2013, defeating East Carolina University in Diddle before losing to Auburn University on the road in the second round.

“Playing in front of all of our fans one more time and playing against tougher competition will help us out a lot,” sophomore forward Ivy Brown said. “We just have to go out and play hard and play to our best ability.”