Lady Toppers crack top 25 for first time since 1998

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 Western Kentucky Women’s basketball team has cracked the top 25 in the Associated Press Poll for the first time since March 9, 1998. 

The Lady Toppers sit at No. 25 boasting a 12-2 record and an inaugural victory in the Conference USA against Marshall on Jan. 4 in Huntington W. Virginia. WKU received 40 points in the poll. 

“We are just excited about the opportunity for the program to be on a national stage again,” Head Coach Michelle Clark-Heard said. “I’m also excited for the players and how they bought into everything we were trying to do since we have been here.” 

WKU’s starting lineup has three Lady Toppers shooting 50 percent or higher from the field, with Senior All-American Candidate Chastity Gooch leading the pack at 53.6 percent off of 192 attempts. 

“With this group I am super excited because they just come in a work hard everyday to put us in a position to work towards our future goals,” Clark-Heard said.  

Gooch has been Named C-USA player of the week 3 times this season, has started every game, leads the team in minutes played with 453, total and offensive rebounds with 113 and 42 respectively, and has more than twice as many blocks as any other Lady Topper with 18.

Senior Alexis Govan is also having a clinical senior campaign, boasting the second best shooting percentage on the roster at 52.1 percent off of 188 attempts.  Govan shot 69 percent from the field in December.

Govan, the team’s captain, has also started every game of the season after missing much of last season with a stress fracture to her left tibia.  She has played just 2 minutes less than Gooch overall with 451 and leads the team in steals with 42.

Redshirt sophomore Kendall Noble rounds out the starting lineup at or over 50 percent with an even 50 percent off of 98 attempts.

“It is a big step for our program,” Knoble said. “Ever since I was getting recruited Coach Heard said her goal was to get in the top 25 and we made it so now we just have to keep working hard to stay there.”

The Lady Toppers will complete a four-game road swing this week, taking on Charlotte on Thursday and Old Dominion on Saturday.