C-USA’s top offense clashes with the top defense in Diddle Arena

Senior guard Alexis Govan (21) drives to the hoop during a home game against Louisiana Tech University, on Thursday, Jan. 29. She was 8-11 on field goals and 2-3 behind the 3-point arc, scoring a total of 21 points. William Kolb/HERALD

Jonah Phillips

The Lady Toppers are riding a three-game winning streak and received a vote in the AP Top 25 poll as they welcome University of Alabama Birmingham into Diddle Arena Thursday night. It will be the first time the Blazers have visited Diddle since Nov. 19, 2004.  

Despite falling to UAB 58-37 in the two teams’ last meeting on Nov. 26, 2011, the Lady Toppers lead the overall series that started in the 1981-82 season 12-4. WKU leads the series 5-2 in games played in Diddle Arena, and Head Coach Michelle Clark-Heard maintains the team is focused on the task at hand. 

“We have a good veteran group,” Clark-Heard said. “The focus has been there for us to do the things we need to do to get better… I think they understand and know—especially because we do have a veteran group—that every day is really crucial, and that we do the things we do to keep improving.”    

The Lady Toppers sit in second place in the Conference USA with a 10-2 record in the league and a 21-4 overall record.  They are the only team in the conference with 20+ wins, with Middle Tennessee edging WKU in the conference standings with an 11-2 league record, but are 17-6 overall. 

“I think we just continue to find ways to be successful and win, and people have stepped up at different times,” Clark-Heard said. “I think there are a lot of teams that wish they were 21-4 at this point. All the things the group has accomplished, and we still have a lot more that we need to continue to work towards.”

UAB is tied for fourth place in the conference with Louisiana Tech with an 8-5 record in league play. The Blazers come to Bowling Green with a 14-10 overall record, and have won five of their last six games. 

“They play really hard, and have some phenomenal players,” Clark-Heard said. “They have a post player in (Janae) Smith who is, I think, one of the best players in this league—can face the up, can shoot the ball, can shoot the three, is really active in the post—I would say her basketball style is similar to Chastity Gooch’s.”

WKU leads the C-USA in points per game with 77.8 and has beaten eight out of their twelve conference opponents so far by double digits. UAB is the highest rated defense in the league, allowing conference foes an average of just 57.2 ppg.  The Blazers currently lead the conference in 3-point field goal percentage with a .358 mark. 

“It is about not looking past anybody, because we can’t,” Clark-Heard said.  “We aren’t in the position to look past anyone.  As tight of a race that this conference is—and our ultimate goal is what everyone else’s is, to win a championship—you have to respect you opponent.”

Tip off is set for this Thursday at 7 p.m. CT.