Lady Tops topple Ouachita Baptist in Diddle

WKU’s guard Kayla Smith (32), heads to the hoop for two of her 17 points during the Lady Hilltopper’s 108-43 win over Ouachita Baptist University on Tuesday at Diddle Arena.

Evan Heichelbech

The Lady Topper basketball team began its preseason Tuesday night with a 108-43 win over Ouachita Baptist in exhibition play in Diddle Arena.

WKU 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. 

The Lady Tops had 11 steals at the half and 22 at the end of play, preventing OBU from gaining momentum.

“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 51 to 32. 

Sophomore Ivy Brown played a large part in the strong rebounding display from WKU, notching a double double with 19 points and 10 rebounds. 

“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.”

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

“I was really impressed with Kendall Noble and Ivy Brown,” Clark-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 defense of WKU allowed Noble to lead the offense down the court and get easy transition buckets.

Noble’s veteran experience in the backcourt was evident, ending the night with 15 points on seven shots.

Of the new faces on the team, freshman Kayla Smith was the most active.

The dual-threat guard and forward logged 16 minutes and was effective getting deflections and running the passing lanes in transition. 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 in Diddle on Tuesday. 

“I feel very comfortable that [the veterans] are getting comfortable with the newcomers. I just think that it’s going to 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. 

“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.

WKU will open its season on Thursday, Nov. 19, at Ball State.