Lady Toppers earn three seed in C-USA tournament with win over Louisiana Tech

WKU’s guard Kendall Noble (12) drives to the basket past Louisville forward Cortnee Walton (13) during the Lady Hilltopper’s 71-69 win on November 21, 2015 at Diddle Arena. Nick Wagner/HERALD

Evan Heichelbech

The WKU women’s basketball team has held double-digit leads late in each of its last two regular season games. Both times the scoreboard was in favor of the Lady Tops when the final buzzer sounded, but the margins of victory were a lot different.

On Thursday night, WKU allowed Southern Miss to turn what was a 15-point deficit in the first half into just a one-point loss.

Saturday was a different story, as Head Coach Michelle Clark-Heard’s team protected its ten-point, third-quarter lead and closed out the regular season with a 69-58 win at Louisiana Tech.

“In the locker room I really challenged [the team] to understand that we just have 20 minutes left of our regular season,” Clark-Heard said in a postgame radio interview. “I felt like we did some good things in the first half but I just wanted to make sure we could continue to answer [La. Tech].”

The Lady Tops got what has become a regular performance from redshirt junior guard Kendall Noble. Noble had 29 points, six rebounds, five steals and three assists to help Clark-Heard earn her 100th victory as WKU’s head coach. She also got a big boost from all three of the Browns as sophomore forward Tashia Brown, sophomore forward Ivy Brown and freshman forward Taylor Brown combined for 33 points and 18 rebounds on the night.

“I’m proud of our bench. Taylor Brown had nine rebounds. Nine. She was huge for us,” Clark-Heard said. “It’s across the board. Ivy came back in and got some big rebounds for us, and then what can I say about Kendall Noble? Just another Kendall Noble day.”

With the win on Saturday, WKU earned the three seed in next week’s Conference USA tournament in Birmingham, Alabama and finished the regular season with a 24-5 overall record and a 15-3 record in conference play.

“To end the regular season like we just did in the second half, that’s the kind of basketball I’ve been wanting to see. I’m really excited because now the journey really begins,” Clark-Heard said.

Although it finished tied for second in the conference, Middle Tennessee earned the two seed because of a tiebreaker. WKU split its two contests with MTSU this season, but the Eagles went 1-0 against fourth-seeded Charlotte whereas the Lady Tops were just 1-1 against the 49ers.

The difference between a two and three seed is marginal, however, as the top four seeds receive double byes.

WKU will face either No. 6 seed Marshall, No. 11 seed UTSA or No. 14 seed FIU in the quarterfinals of the tournament on Thursday at 7:30 p.m.