Lady Toppers set to begin inaugural Conference USA slate

Head Coach Michelle Clark-Heard converses with Tashia Brown during a timeout in the Lady Topper’s game against the University of Louisville at the Yum! Center, November 25, 2014. Justin Gilliland/HERALD

Jonah Phillips

The Lady Topper basketball team begins its inaugural Conference USA campaign on Sunday, traveling to Huntington, W. Virginia to take on the Marshall Herd.

“It is a tough first game for us,” Head Coach Michelle Clark-Heard said. “They love to shoot the three and they are very athletic—they will press us.  We have got to be ready.”

Conference USA is one of the premier women’s basketball leagues in the nation, with the current combination of C-USA teams totaling over 9,200 wins, 113 NCAA tournament appearances and four national championships.  This season, the Lady Toppers begin league play with a league-best 11 wins and just two losses. WKU has won its last eight games, with the team’s last loss coming at the hands of No. 7 Louisville at the KFC YUM! Center on November 25.

“We play some tough competition in the Conference USA,” Heard said. “It is going to be a lot of close games, and it’s going to be a lot of competition, so we have to be ready.”

The Lady Topper’s 11-2 record gained them a No. 24 ranking in the RPI and a recieveing votes in the Associated Press Coaches Poll.

“This is the second part of the season, so this is what we prepare for” Govan said, who was injured for the entirety of WKU’s last Sun Belt Conference slate last season.  “It’s more business now.  It was business before, but a lot depends on this.  We have to come in every day and work hard.”

Senior All-American candidate Chastity Gooch begins league play averaging a team high 18.5 points and 7.7 rebounds per game. She is shooting 55 percent from the field. The three-time C-USA Player of the Week is finding her better stride right on the cusp of conference play—posting 32 points on December 16 against Austin Peay and 24 points and seven steals on December 29 against Belmont.

During WKU’s current eight-game winning streak, senior Alexis Govan has also been building momentum, averaging 19.2 points per game in the month of December and shooting 69.1 percent from the field. She notched 17 points against Belmont in WKU’s last outing and has scored at least 17 points in six straight games.

“We are going in as the new kids on the block,” Heard said. “We have to make sure we are doing the things we need to do to be successful.”

Following the trip to Marshall, WKU plays at Charlotte on January 8 and Old Dominion on January 10 before returning home on the 15 against Florida Atlantic.