Lady Toppers open home stand with win over Marshall

WKU’s freshman guard Tashia Brown (10) shoots over Marshall’s center Chukwuka Ezeigbo (33) during the Lady Topper’s 74-60 win over Marshall, Saturday, Feb. 14, 2015, at E.A. Diddle Arena in Bowling Green, Ky.  Brown was one of four Lady Topper’s who contributed at least 10 points in the win, which improves WKU’s record to 21-4.

Jonah Phillips

Depth in the Lady Topper’s roster proved to be the difference in Saturday’s 74-60 win over the Marshall Thundering Herd. 

The Lady Toppers previously defeated the Thundering Herd, on Jan. 4, with a score line of 67-53. 

“I think we stepped up in different situations. I think we got some crucial offensive rebounds,” Head Coach Michelle Clark-Heard said. “I think at certain points we stepped up and made some free throws when they fouled us. They had four kids in double figures, and we did, too. I think the difference was—in some situations—us being able to come down and get fouled and make a free throw. That’s just how the game goes.”

Freshmen Tashia Brown and Ivy Brown combined for 16 points off the bench, which proved crucial for the 21-4, 10-2 in Conference USA, Lady Toppers. Seniors Alexis Govan and Chastity Gooch both picked up four fouls early in the second half. Tashia Brown finished with 11 points in 27 minutes, while Ivy Brown had five points.

“We are not playing great,” Marshall Head Coach Matt Daniel said, “travel is killing us … We were also without McKenzie Akers. She was out with a concussion … and I think we are just tired and not playing very good basketball.  Western Kentucky is playing good basketball. WKU was picked where they were, and we were picked where we are—I think there is obviously a difference there, and that was exploited tonight …” 

Despite foul trouble, Govan finished with 19 points, 12 rebounds and four steals, marking her sixth career double-double. Gooch finished with 14 points and eight rebounds. Govan and Gooch each picked up their third fouls in the final 0:15 of the first half.

“I think everyone went out there and did what they needed to do,” Govan said, when asked about her and Gooch’s foul trouble. “We can attack people from a lot of different areas — it is not just Chastity and I. I wasn’t worried at all. I think, on the bench, we had a little bit more fun getting to watch them. We knew what the young kids could do, and a game like this is exactly what we needed.”

The Lady Toppers held Marshall (14-9, 6-6) to 38.7 percent shooting from the field, including a 32.3 percent mark in the first half. 

Marshall — who shot 1-16 from behind the arc when they met in January— hit eight 3-pointers in Saturday’s contest.

“It was alright,” said redshirt sophomore Kendall Noble of the team’s defensive performance. “I think we could have done better. In the second half, they cut it to six, but we came up with some stops when it counted, and that’s what matters.” 

WKU held a 15-point lead in the first half at 34-19, with 3:19 left, but Marshall fired back, scoring the final five points of the half.

The Herd also scored the first four out the break to cut the Lady Topper lead to 38-32, with 19:06 left.

Marshall brought the game even closer at the 9:42 mark, remaining within six points at 56-50 after a 7-0 run.  

“At the end of the day, when they brought it within six points, we started to step up in different situations,” Clark-Heard said. “We got some crucial rebounds, and we started stepping up and making free throws.”

The Lady Toppers pulled away in the final 10 minutes of the game. Govan and Gooch re-entered play, with roughly four minutes left in regulation and a 15-point lead.

Junior guard Micah Jones had 10 points for WKU while Noble had eight points, five rebounds and six assists. 

Marshall had four players in double figures, led by Chukwuka Ezeigbo and AJ Johnson with 12 points each.

Next Thursday, WKU returns to John Oldham Court at Diddle Arena to face off with UAB at 7 p.m. CT.