Lady Tops clinch home-opening win over Louisville

WKU’s guard Kendall Noble (12) shoots the ball from between Louisville forward Cortnee Walton (13) and forward Mariya Moore (4) during the Lady Topper’s 71-69 win Saturday at E.A. Diddle Arena.

Evan Heichelbech

The Lady Topper basketball team claimed a two-point win over the University of Louisville on Saturday afternoon in Diddle Arena after officially starting their season with a loss on the road to Ball State last Thursday. 

Against Louisville, WKU jumped out to an early 10-3 lead in the first quarter. Offense was hard to come by in the early going as both teams played solid defense. WKU held Louisville to just 33 percent shooting from the field, despite being outrebounded on the offensive glass 31-13.

“We try to switch up and do a lot of different things and we want to be known as a defensive team because we’re not that big,” Head Coach Michelle Clark-Heard said. “We want to be able to score our points off of defense.”

The second quarter was more competitive, as the Lady Cardinals outscored WKU 23-17. The Lady Cards heated up from deep, hitting four three-pointers in the second quarter. Louisville guard Briahanna Jackson had 13 second quarter points to spark the Lady Cards and finished with 24, but 21 Louisville turnovers held the Lady Cards back too far in the end.

“I think it just showed us that we can play,” junior guard Kendall Noble said. “I think we were a little unsure about our identity since losing Chastity (Gooch) and Alexis (Govan) we didn’t know how this year was gonna go but I think we’re starting to figure it out.

Tashia Brown’s red-hot second quarter wasn’t the biggest story of the first half, as her backcourt mate and senior guard Micah Jones went down with a knee injury at the 7:33 mark of the second quarter. She did not return to the game.

“It was sad but we knew that we had to get the win for her so that’s basically what we talked about–just getting the win for her, keeping our composure, diving on the floor and doing all the little things to come out with the victory,” Brown said.

There is no official report on Jones’ injury yet, and she will have MRIs and x-rays in the coming days.

“We got in the locker room and they had to gather themselves and get together and I think that was one of the most amazing things,” Clark-Heard said. “And I think the one who took it the hardest was Kendall Noble because [Micah’s] her best friend, and then she comes out and does what she does in the second half so it shows a lot about her as an individual and a lot about this team.”

Brown had 16 points and helped keep WKU in the game in the second quarter, hitting 5-6 shots.

“To be able to have Tashia step up and be able to help Kendall bring the ball up when Micah went down and to have the poise to take the ball out of bounds and get it in, because we knew they were going to pressure us, Tashia’s just been great for us,” Clark-Heard said. “She made some huge baskets and some nice pull-up jumpers and just did a lot of great things for us, so she’s huge for us and I’m just glad to see her continue to keep getting better.”

In the second half, junior guard Kendall Noble went on a scoring tear, scoring 14 second-half points. Noble hit two consecutive three-pointers to give the Lady Tops a 56-51 lead with under six minutes left in the game.

“They just kept going around the screens and they were daring me to shoot it pretty much, so I let it fly and they went in,” Noble said.

With 42.2 seconds left to play, WKU held a 67-65 advantage when Briahanna Jackson drove the lane and cashed in on a three-point play, giving Louisville a one-point edge.

Tashia Brown then found Smith under the basket for an easy lay-in with 34 seconds left.

“That’s why Kayla Smith is in the starting lineup,” Clark-Heard said. “She has a very high basketball IQ. Kayla’s so smart she slipped out and she saw the girl playing so high on her and that’s how she was able to get the basket.”

Louisville forward Cortnee Walton then traveled under the Louisville basket, giving WKU the ball back and the Lady Cards fouled Noble and sent her to the free-throw line. She hit both, and put the Tops ahead for good by a final score of 71-69.  

“We’re just really tough, I think everybody’s a competitor and we fought hard the whole time and I’m so proud of them that they didn’t give up,” Noble said of her team’s effort.

Ed. note: A previous version of this story listed an incorrect final score, as well as a grammatical error in a quote from Michelle-Clark Head. These errors have been corrected. The Herald regrets the errors.