Lady Tops grab win over Austin Peay

WKU sophomore forward Tashia Brown (10) puts up a shot during the game against the Austin Peay State University Lady Colonels, Saturday, Dec. 5, 2015 at Diddle Arena, Bowling Green, Ky. WKU won 88 – 69. Matt Lunsford/HERALD

Evan Heichelbech

WKU improved its record to 4-2 after defeating Austin Peay in Diddle Arena on Saturday.

The Lady Toppers also played on Wednesday in Oxford, Mississippi against Ole Miss. The Lady Rebels had their 10-point lead erased in the second half and WKU pulled to within two several times, but could not gain the lead and ultimately fell 59-53.

It was a low-scoring affair as the Lady Tops shot just 29.7 percent from the field, and held Ole Miss to 30 percent shooting. Redshirt junior Kendall Noble recorded a double double with 15 points and 10 rebounds. Tashia Brown was the only other player in double digits with 10.

Saturday was a different story for Noble and company, who lit up the nets for 57 percent shooting from three-point land and 60 percent from the field on the way to an 88-69 victory over the visiting Lady Governors.

“It’s night and day from our game at Ole Miss where we couldn’t really put the ball in the hole,” Head Coach Michelle Clark-Heard said. “I’m proud of this group, it was a great win for us and we needed it.”

Sophomore guard Tashia Brown was the leading scorer on the night with 21 points and 7 assists to go along with them.

“We had to lock in on defense [after the Ole Miss game],” Brown said. “We gave too many open looks and drive-by’s lately, so that’s just kind of what we’ve been working on: just getting defensive stops and letting the offense come to us and not letting the game dictate if you’re making shots or not.”

Anyone can step up and produce for Clark-Heard’s team on any day, and on Saturday it was Dee Givens.

“I think that’s what I’ve learned about this team—every single day in any given moment I think any player can step up and I saw a lot of people do a lot of different things and so I’m happy about that,” Clark-Heard said. “We tell them all the time that when their number is called they gotta be ready to go. Dee got on the floor and I think she got into the rhythm of the game and that’s just how we coach. We let them have the opportunity to be out there and play and I think this was really good for Dee’s confidence.”

In her first significant minutes of the season, Givens stepped up and played well, finishing with 16 points on 4-5 shooting from behind the arc in 23 minutes played.

“Coach Heard told me yesterday to get in the gym because when I get in the game I’ll start making shots,” Givens said. “When I came off the bench I played hard and that’s all she wants me to do is play hard and just guard on defense.”

The defensive pressure was key to the Lady Tops transition success against Austin Peay. Coming into the game, WKU had scored 39 points off 46 turnovers, averaging nearly a point for each forced, and they ended the game Saturday with 9 steals and 25 points off turnovers.

“It’s very important… every time they came to the huddle that’s what we were preaching; talking to them about getting stops and making sure we weren’t making the little mistakes. We changed up our 1-2-2 press and moved it up some,” Clark-Heard said. “When you play the way we play, and we try to change up defenses and do a lot of different things, it’s really good when we have our players that can focus on doing what we [need]to do.”

Noble continued to impress, scoring all 16 of her points in the first half and dishing out five assists. Noble has scored in double digits in all but one game this season (4 points against George Mason). Sophomore forward Ivy Brown had another strong outing against Austin Peay, recording a double-double with 12 points and 12 boards. Noble and Brown are both currently in the top ten in the conference in rebounding, averaging 9.6 and 8.2 boards per game, respectively.

The Lady Tops next play on the road at UT Arlington in Arlington, Texas on Sunday, December 13.