Reserve play key to Lady Topper success

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

It’s business as usual for the Lady Topper Basketball team as they sit in first place in the Conference USA in their inaugural season in the conference. 

After being named C-USA Preseason Player of the Year and an All-Conference selection, Chastity Gooch and fellow senior All-Conference selection Alexis Govan have led the Lady Toppers to a 23-4 overall and 12-2 league record. 

The two are tied for the lead in Lady Topper scoring this season with 456 points each. 

But it’s been consistency throughout the entire squad—not just the leaders and starting lineup—that brought the Lady Topper’s to the heights they have achieved.  

Solid bench play from WKU’s reserves has proved to be a consistent thorn in the sides of opponents this season, a point that is expressed in more columns than just points. 

While averaging 16.8 points from the bench in C-USA play this season, it has been the depth on the defensive side of the ball that has allowed the Lady Toppers to persevere. 

Junior Jalynn McClain is coming off an impressive first start of the season. Her selection in the starting lineup proved to be crucial, while her 24 other appearances yielded an average of 8.9 minutes per game where she plays an intricate part in the WKU defense. 

“I put Jalynn McClain in because she has been unbelievable in practice, and now, you see why,” Head Coach Michelle Clark-Heard said after last weekend’s wins. “I’m just really proud of her.” 

Freshman Tashia Brown played in all competitions for the Lady Toppers but has started just five. She notched the fourth-most points of any Lady Topper this season (the most of any bench player) with 225.

Fellow freshman Ivy Brown has also seen action in all competitions in her first season on the hill. She’s clocked a total of 331 minutes with an average of 12.3 minutes per game to contribute to a stout Lady Topper defense.  

“That’s one of the strengths of our team,” Ivy Brown said. “We will play hard no matter what. On the defensive end and the offensive end. We have this saying ‘don’t worry about what happened last play, worry about the next one’.”

Sophomore Bria Gaines has appeared in all but one of the Lady Topper’s games this season, has nabbed 113 points for the Lady Toppers and boasts the highest field goal percentage at .533 off of an average of just 9.7 minutes per game (252 total). 

“They we’re huge,” Micah Jones said of Brown and Gaines in the team’s win over MTSU. “Every day they are getting better and better. We really needed them to step up… and they showed up huge.”

Clark-Heard said she was proud of Gaines after Gaines’ season-high 17 points versus North Texas. 

“She is continuing to get better and you can see it and she is more confident on the floor,” she said. “She is able to do different things for us and her teammates are helping her along the way.” 

The Lady Toppers’ marriage of youth and experience looks to push through the rest of the season while staying atop the league standings, as they are in control of their own destiny.