Lady Toppers trample Ouachita Baptist with triple digit scoreline

Lady Topper junior guard Ima Akpan (20), dribbles past sophomore forward Tashia Brown (10) during a scrimmage game in Diddle Arena. Alyssa Pointer/HERALD

Evan Heichelbech

The WKU Lady Topper basketball team kicked off its preseason on Tuesday night with a 108-43 victory over Ouachita Baptist in exhibition play in Diddle Arena.

The Lady Tops shot 54 percent from the field and put up triple digits points, but what impressed Head Coach Michelle Clark-Heard was her team’s defense.

         “I think that’s one thing we’re going to have to hang our hat on that we’ve always tried to do,” Clark-Heard said of the defense opening up the flow of the offensive game.

         The defense was smothering from start to finish, with 11 steals at the half and 22 at the end of the game, preventing OBU from getting any momentum going all game.

         “We worked a little in the first half and tried to pick up full court man-to-man,” Clark-Heard said. “I was proud of what we did getting our hands on the ball and getting some steals.”

         In addition to the defensive pressure, the Lady Tops won the battle of the boards, outrebounding OBU 51 to 32.

Sophomore Ivy Brown played a large part in the strong rebounding display from WKU, as the forward scrapped her way to a double double with 19 points and 10 rebounds. Brown made her presence felt in the low-post, as OBU struggled to find an answer for her all game.

         “She’s had an unbelievable spring and summer and she’s really worked hard just coming into this all and has done everything we’ve asked her,” Clark-Heard said. “I was just really happy for her to see those first couple of shots go down. She’s rebounding, guarding and doing a lot of things for us.”

 The familiar faces of redshirt junior guard Kendall Noble and Brown stood out in the crowd of newcomers on the team.

         “I was really impressed with Kendall Noble and Ivy Brown,” Coach Heard said. “The first half just really set the tone for us. Other people did a lot of good things but those two just really stood out a lot for me in the beginning.”

         The vehement defense of the Lady Tops allowed Noble to lead the offense down the court and get easy transition buckets.

Noble’s veteran experience in the backcourt was evident as she ended the night with 15 points on seven shots.

         Of the new faces on the team, freshman Kayla Smith was the most active with her playing time.

The dual-threat guard/forward logged 16 minutes and was very effective getting key deflections and running the passing lanes in transition on the other side of the court. Smith finished with 17 points and two steals.

“Kayla Smith came off the bench in the first half and did some great things in six minutes, and that’s why we tried to get her a lot more minutes in the second half,” Clark-Heard said.

Junior College transfer guard Ima Akpan added 13 points and freshman Taylor Brown had 11.

In all, six new players combined for 100 minutes played in front of the Diddle Arena crowd for the first time.

“I feel very comfortable that [the veterans] are getting comfortable with the newcomers. I just think that it’s gonna be a process,” Clark-Heard said. “I think that people got a chance to see tonight that we have different players that can do different things and I think it’s gonna be a collective effort.”

Tuesday’s exhibition game against OBU was a good way for Clark-Heard and her team to gauge how the season might be. Given that the schedule will get tougher, there were a lot of positives to take away.

 “This will be a great teaching tool for us going forward,” Clark-Heard said. “Going back and watching the film and just getting with our players and being able to show them so they can see (what to work on) and not just playing the same people in practice (will be helpful).”

Another takeaway for the Lady Tops to consider are the rule changes for this season.

The NCAA Women’s Basketball Rules committee issued several rule changes in the offseason, the biggest one being the change from two 20-minute halves to four 10-minute quarters.

“It was a little different,” Clark-Heard said. “[We] just have to get used to it and at the end of the day we will.”

WKU will officially open its season on Thursday, Nov. 19 on the road against Ball State.