WKU drops 89-67 decision at No. 12 Louisville

Sophomore Guard Kendall Noble drives the ball to the basket against the University of Louisville at the Yum! Center, November 25, 2014. Justin Gilliland/HERALD November 25, 2014.

Kyle Williams

After a three-game Preseason WNIT slate and an appearance in the championship game all in just six days, the Lady Toppers traveled two hours up Interstate-65 aiming for an upset of No. 12 Louisville on Tuesday.

Despite both teams exhibiting similar styles of play, the Cardinals got off to a strong start and led by as much as 34 en route to handing WKU an 89-67 loss in its first trip to the KFC Yum! Center.

The Cardinals (5-0) forced 17 Lady Topper turnovers and held them to 35 percent shooting with just six assists on 22 made field goals. WKU (3-2) came in forcing an average of 25.3 turnovers per game, but only managed to force 13 in the loss. Louisville entered with a +15.3 turnover ratio.

WKU seniors Chastity Gooch and Alexis Govan led the Lady Toppers with 20 points apiece. Gooch added 10 rebounds in all 40 minutes. Freshman guard Tashia Brown added a career-high 14 points off the bench.

Louisville senior guard Bria Smith recorded a triple-double for the Cardinals with 22 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. Louisville shot 52 percent from the floor and outscored WKU 72-26 in the painted area.

“You can’t let them score 72 points in the paint,” Head Coach Michelle Clark-Heard said. “That can’t happen. So we have to go and we have to, as a coaching staff, make some adjustments. …Non-conference is all about getting better.”

The Lady Tops started 2-of-10 from the field and trailed 8-4 within the first five minutes before strong interior play from the Cardinals propelled them to a 44-26 halftime lead.

WKU shot 8-of-29 (28 percent) from the field and 1-of-11 (9 percent) from three-point range in the first half compared to Louisville’s 18-of-39 (46 percent) mark. The Cardinals outscored the Lady Tops 32-8 in the paint through 20 minutes.

“We just came out very, very flat,” Heard said. “They hit everything and we weren’t getting back in transition, but at the end of the day, super proud of our girls…we came back and we fought.”

Louisville opened up a 57-32 lead within the first five minutes of the second half before it ballooned to 72-42 with under 10 minutes to play.

The Lady Toppers belted out a 17-2 run with under eight minutes remaining to whittle Louisville’s lead to 72-53, but the Cardinals responded with four-straight points en route to a 89-67 final.

“I’m really proud of our girls because I think they learned that, if they just continue competing and doing the things we need to, then we can chip away,” Heard said.

WKU now travels to Hempstead, New York for the Hofstra Thanksgiving Tournament beginning on Friday against Tulane at 1 p.m. The Lady Toppers’ second matchup of the holiday tournament will be on Saturday against either Hofstra of Northern Iowa.