Lady Toppers give up halftime lead, drop first home game to Southern Miss

Senior forward Chastity Gooch goes up for a shot during the first half of WKU’s Nov. 14 game against Central Arkansas. Gooch scored 14 points in the Lady Toppers’ 93-57 victory over the Sugar Bears in the first round of the Preseason Women’s NIT. Brandon Carter/HERALD

Jonah Phillips

The Lady Toppers dropped their second conference game in a week and first home game of the season on Saturday, falling to Southern Mississippi 61-63 in Diddle Arena. 

WKU gave up a six-point cushion at halftime as Southern Miss shot 54.2 percent and outscored the Lady Toppers by eight in the second half. WKU lead for 23:57 minutes of the game.

“That’s a loss in the conference, that’s what I’m worried about,” Head Coach Michelle Clark-Heard said. “At the end of the day, that’s what it’s about. You have to be able to put yourself in the position where you could take care of business in conference and on your home floor.”

WKU (18-4, 7-2) shot just 3-of-12 from the free throw line and just 6-of-23 from behind the three-point arc in the loss.

“We’ve been turning it over if you watch us,” Heard said. “I think the difference is we’ve been making shots. We’ve been making shots in other games. The shots that we normally make—we wasn’t making them today.”

It was a day for the record books for Chastity Gooch as she became the fifth player in WKU history to reach 1,000 career rebounds and the fourth player in WKU history to reach 1,500 career points and 1,000 career rebounds. She led the Lady Toppers in the match with 17 points.

Senior Alexis Govan added 15 points and nine rebounds while Kendall Noble finished with nine points, seven rebounds, and six assists.

The teams traded baskets for a good portion of the second half, with the score changing 12 times throughout the contest. Noble gave the Lady Toppers the lead with 2:28 left at 58-57 but the Lady Eagles responded with points from Tamara Jones and Jerontay Clemons—reaching their largest lead of the game with less than a minute to play in regulation.

“We have to get better and as a staff we have to go back and break down what we need to do to figure out how to get us back on track,” Clark-Heard said. “At the end of the day, this is our fourth loss. We’re 18-4. I’m not going to sit here like we are 4-18. We’ve done a lot of good things and we have to go back to those things and get those things done so that we can get better and get ready for next week.”

The Lady Toppers return to the court next week in a pair of games in Texas, traveling first to North Texas on Thursday, February 5 followed by Rice on Saturday, February 7.