Lady Tops rout Bellarmine in lone exhibition, 102-55

WKU junior forward Chastity Gooch shoots past Baylor freshman point guard Khadijiah Cave during the first round of the 2014 NCAA Divison I Women’s Basketball Championship at the Ferrell Center in Waco, Texas on Saturday March 22, 2014. (Jeff Brown/HERALD)

John Reecer

The Lady Toppers tipped off their 2014-15 campaign with a win against Division II Bellarmine on Friday night in Diddle Arena, and although the matchup was deemed an exhibition, WKU’s victory was anything but a walk in the park.

Bellarmine tested the Lady Toppers in the first half, but WKU eventually used a 15-0 second-half run to cruise to a 102-55 win over the Lady Knights.

All five starters for the Lady Toppers scored in double digits with senior forward Chastity Gooch leading the way with 20 points on 9-of-16 shooting. Junior guard Micah Jones and redshirt sophomore guard Kendall Noble both chipped in 17. Senior guard Alexis Govan added 12 points and three steals in her first game back from a stress fracture.

Despite the game getting out of hand in the second half, the first period featured competitive play from the Lady Knights. Bellarmine junior guard Mariah Gador led the Lady Knights with 14 first-half points en route to her game-high 21.  

The Lady Toppers headed into the locker room with a slim 44-37 halftime lead.

“In the first half we were really sluggish, but that’s kind of what you expect in front of the crowd — getting the jitters out,” Head Coach Michelle Clark-Heard said. “I just wasn’t pleased with our defense. We gave up 37 points that first half.”   

Despite the lethargic start, the second half proved to be a whole new ballgame. The Lady Toppers came out with full-court pressure and assertive play to begin the second period, leading to an immediate 15-0 run.

“I was really proud in the second half,” Heard said. “I think, defensively, we turned it up. Tashia (Brown) and Alexis (Govan) got on top of the press, and I think that started the energy for our big run.”  

The 15-0 run then turned into a 27-5 rout within the first 10 minutes of the second half. Jones aided the Lady Topper run with four three-point baskets.

On top of their full-court pressure and defensive prowess, which yielded only 18 second-half points from the Lady Knights, the Lady Toppers managed to shoot lights out from the field in the second period at a 64.9 percent clip.

WKU forced a total of 29 turnovers, and the Lady Toppers took full advantage of those opportunities as they netted a total of 40 points off turnovers.

One of the brightest spots of the game for the Lady Toppers was the all-around play of Noble. She recorded 17 points, but also notched six rebounds, five steals and five assists.

“I think we know we can score,” Noble said. “It’s about getting stops on defense. We can’t outscore everyone every game.”

The Lady Toppers will take the court again on Friday against Central Arkansas in Diddle Arena at 6 p.m. for the first game of the regular season. The game also marks the beginning of the 2014 preseason WNIT.