Lady Toppers remain third in conference standings

WKU’s guard Ima Akpan (20) dribbles away from a defender during a WKU-University of Texas at San Antonio basketball game on Thursday Feb. 4 at E.A. Diddle Arena in Bowling Green. Kathryn Ziesig/HERALD

Evan Heichelbech

WKU will return to the comfortable confines of Diddle Arena this week with a 1-1 record over its last two games.

In the first game of the road trip, sophomore guard Tashia Brown returned from a leg injury and dropped a career-high 34 points in a comeback victory over Old Dominion on Thursday, Feb. 18.

“We needed her,” Head Coach Michelle Clark-Heard said after the game in a postgame radio interview.

Tashia Brown helped the Lady Toppers fight back from a 12-point deficit in the second half to an 85-74 overtime victory and sweep of the Lady Monarchs on the season.

WKU trailed almost the entire game but held Old Dominion to just 22 percent shooting in the final 10 minutes of play.

“I was just so proud of them. We just found ways,” Clark-Heard said. “I kept challenging them to keep grinding, keep grinding. We’re right there. We got 10 minutes. We just got to keep playing, and I was just so proud of them because we just kept our composure and found a way to get it to overtime.”

The WKU defense was able to hold C-USA leading scorer Jennie Simms in check down the stretch and limited double-double machine Destinee Young to just 8 points and eight rebounds.

Junior guard Kendall Noble poured in 22 points of her own and had nine rebounds to go along with them while sophomore forward Ivy Brown recorded her ninth double-double with 16 points and 14 rebounds.

“Different people stepped up at different times,” Clark-Heard said. “That’s what it’s about. I just told them that this might have been one of the most amazing team wins. This was a great ballgame, and you hate to see anyone lose.”

Two days later on Feb. 20, the Lady Toppers travelled to Charlotte to take on a pesky 49er team that is tough to crack in its own building at 10-2 on the season. For the second consecutive game, WKU trailed by double digits on the road, but there was not enough comeback in the Lady Toppers on Saturday at Charlotte.

The 49ers raced out to a 10-0 lead and set the tone early.

“We didn’t play well when we came out early. We didn’t have that focus; that’s why we got down 10-0,” Associate Head Coach Greg Collins said in a postgame interview. “Charlotte deserves this win. We got what we earned, and that was a loss tonight.”

The teams traded leads three times before heading into the the half with a 33-33 tie.

“We settled in and we were playing better, but they were just a lot more focused,” Collins said.

The Lady Toppers fell behind again in the third quarter. They fought back in spurts but ultimately could not stay in front of the 49ers.

“We didn’t do a good team effort on the boards tonight,” Collins said. “We were fouling, and this is not a team that you want to put on the free-throw line.”

Charlotte had five players in double-digits led by guard Lefty Webster, who netted 19 points. Guards Grace Hunter and Kira Gordon had 18 and 16 points respectively. Double-double machine Alexis Alexander scored 15 points, and Laia Raventos joined the double-digit club with 10 points of her own.

Kendall Noble led WKU with 19 points, and Ivy Brown and Tashia Brown chipped in 14 and 10 points as well.

The Lady Toppers will keep going on Thursday, Feb. 25, when Middle Tennessee (17-7, 11-2) faces WKU in Diddle at 8 p.m. WKU will look to avenge its 83-75 loss to Middle Tennessee in Murfeesboro on Jan. 30.

The Lady Toppers currently stand alone in third place of the C-USA standings and trail MTSU by one game; the conference tournament is just a few weeks away.