Lady Toppers claim C-USA regular season title

WKU teammates Alexis Govan and Jalynn McClain share an embrace after defeating Conference USA opponent MTSU by a score of 63-60. Placing them at the top of the current Conference USA standings. (Luke Franke/Herald)

Jonah Phillips

The Lady Topper basketball team claimed the Conference USA Regular Season Title on Thursday night with an 80-72 win over Charlotte in Diddle Arena.

“It’s incredible, I am just trying to soak it in right now,” Head Coach Michelle Clark-Heard said after claiming the title. “No really I’m just really happy. Happy for this program, happy for those seniors out there, and happy for the rest of the girls.”

­­­Chastity Gooch led the Lady Toppers (26-4, 15-2 in C-USA) with 22 points (11 first half), but it was the play of Kendall Noble that brought the team together in their record-setting win. 

“It’s a pretty great accomplishment,” Noble said.  “To win a regular season title you have to be good for like a whole three months, and in a tournament you just have to win three games, so that’s a pretty big accomplishment.”

Noble finished with her seventh career double-double performance, notching 11 points, 12 rebounds, and six assists.  She registered seven points, five rebounds, and five assists at halftime.

“Her potential is untapped,” Head Coach Michelle Clark-Heard said of Noble. “I never really realize what she does until I get the stat sheet at the end of the game, but I also know that she is the X-factor for us. She can rebound, she can pass, she can score. Her IQ for the game of basketball is incredible.”

The Lady Toppers trailed for 10:55 of the first half, but managed to hold a 43-37 lead going into the break.  Coming out of the break, the Lady Toppers shot just 37.9 percent from the field in the second half, but a mark of 82.6 percent from the free-throw line for the game was enough to punch the Lady Toppers through for a No. 1 seed in the C-USA tournament next week in Birmingham, Alabama.

“It feels great, especially to know where we came from,” Gooch said on winning the regular season title. “It is just a great feeling.”

At the end of the day, the Lady Toppers finished with four players in double digits, including Gooch, Noble, Micah Jones with 13 points and seven assists, and Tashia Brown with 11 points.  The Lady Toppers notched 25 points off the bench opposed to the 49er’s 11.  Each team forced 17 turnovers.  

“In the first half it was such a game of runs, and in the second half we came out and we dug ourselves a hole that we couldn’t get out of,” Charlotte Head Coach Cara Consuegra said. “It is disappointing… if you look at the stat sheet—the difference is rebounds and free throws.”

The Lady Toppers take on Old Dominion on Saturday, with the careers of Alexis Govan, Chastity Gooch and Ileana Johnson being recognized prior to the game for Senior Night.  WKU won the teams’ last meeting earlier this season 76-60. Action is set to start at 2 p.m.