Lady Tops claim part of regular season C-USA title

WKU senior forward Chastity Gooch (30) drives the lane against a MTSU defender Saturday Feb. 21 in the two teams’ Conference USA matchup. WKU would go on to defeat conference rival MTSU in a game that went down to the final buzzer by a score of 63-60. (Luke Franke/Herald)

Jonah Phillips

WKU claimed what is currently just a portion of the 2014-15 Conference USA Regular Season Championship on Saturday, commanding an 88-47 win over FIU in Miami. 

WKU (25-4, 14-2) claimed at least a share of the title with help from UAB (15-12, 9-7) defeating MTSU (18-8, 12-4). The Lady Toppers won their first regular-season title as a member of C-USA in their inaugural season, and their 11th regular-season title in program history. 

With a win in either of the Lady Topper’s next two games, WKU would win the conference outright. 

Freshman Tashia Brown tabbed a career-high of 19 points. Four other Lady Toppers also ended the night with double-digits.  

“In the first half, my shots weren’t falling,” Tashia Brown said. “I started passing it around a lot and coach got on to me a little bit, so I just kept shooting the ball.  In the second half, they started falling.”

Tashia Brown notched all 19 of her points in the second half. 

“Tashia has been so consistent for us this season,” Head Coach Michelle Clark-Heard said. “Being able to come in and do the things she does for this team … says a lot for her.”

Redshirt sophomore Kendall Noble added 15 points, senior Chastity Gooch notched 16, and freshman Ivy Brown and junior Micah Jones each had 11 points (a career-high for Ivy Brown).  Noble was knocking on the door of a double double with nine assists, seven rebounds and six steals in 35 minutes while Jones added seven assists. 

“I knew it was going to be an emotional battle with it being their Senior Night,” Clark-Heard said. “I just really wanted a chance for our girls to settle down. They ended up making some big shots, and I was happy about that.”

The Lady Toppers, who visited FIU on Senior Night, fell behind 11-3 in the opening three minutes. The Lady Toppers seemed relatively unshaken by their sluggish start and responded by scoring eight straight to tie the game at 11, finishing the first half on a 34-7 run to lead 37-18.  

“Tonight was their senior night, so they came out with a lot of energy, and we didn’t match it and do as well as we should have at first,” Jones said. “Once we got settled in and started playing our game and making shots, everything started falling into place.” 

The Lady Toppers shot 60.7 percent for the game and held a 34-27 advantage on the boards in the win. FIU (3-24, 0-16) was held to just 34.5 percent shooting from the field in the game and committed 22 turnovers, leading to 20 WKU points.

The Lady Toppers return home for the final two home games of the season, facing Charlotte on Thursday, March 5 at 7pm, and Old Dominion on Saturday, March 7 at 2pm.

“Something this team is done is they have taken care of things on the road,” Clark-Heard said. “Now, we really need to finish out with a bang.”

Saturday’s contest will be Senior Night as WKU will honor seniors Chastity Gooch, Alexis Govan and Ileana Johnson.