Lady Tops stifle Central Arkansas in 93-57 season-opening win

Senior guard Alexis Govan (21) and junior guard Micah Jones (5) celebrate after forcing a turnover during the first half of WKU’s Nov. 14 game against Central Arkansas. The Lady Toppers forced 22 turnovers in their 93-57 victory over the Sugar Bears. Brandon Carter/HERALD

Kyle Williams

Head Coach Michelle Clark-Heard preached defense leading up to WKU’s season-opener against Central Arkansas, and the Lady Toppers got the memo.

WKU (1-0) forced 22 turnovers en route to a 93-57 victory over the Sugar Bears in the first round of the Preseason WNIT on Friday night in Diddle Arena. The Lady Toppers will advance to play the winner of Colorado and North Dakota on Monday.

Sophomore forward Bria Gaines led the way for the Lady Toppers with 22 points in 18 minutes. Redshirt sophomore guard Kendall Noble added 17 points, 12 rebounds, four assists and three steals in 26 minutes. Senior forward Chastity Gooch and senior guard Alexis Govan chipped in 14 and 11 points, respectively.

The Lady Toppers assisted on 21 of their 37 made baskets and shot 50 percent from the field.

Central Arkansas sophomore guard Maggie Proffitt tallied 22 points to lead the Sugar Bears. She was five-for-seven from the three-point line.

“We gave up too many threes to their three-point shooter on the team,” Heard said. “But I think, overall, worked on a lot of things we have worked on – getting into gaps, sitting down guarding, trying to rebound. So I was pleased. I was pleased with our effort.”

WKU forced two shot clock violations in the first three minutes of the game and forced nine turnovers with 7:49 left in the first half. The Lady Toppers used an 11-2 run to head into the locker room with a 51-29 halftime lead. They forced 14 first-half turnovers and assisted on 14 of their 21 made shots in the first 20 minutes.

The Lady Toppers held the Sugar Bears to just 40 percent shooting for the second half on the way to their 36-point victory. It’s the largest win for WKU in a season opener since the 2004-05 season when the Lady Toppers posted a 92-50 win against UAB. Gaines tallied 12 of her 22 in the second period.

“I’m super proud of Bria,” Heard said. “…She’s worked to get herself in shape. She’s worked to advance what she needs to do with the game, so I’m proud of her. …Kendall – it’s Kendall. You look at the stat sheets, she’s kind of like the silent assassin. She just does a lot for us.”

With a Colorado win against North Dakota, the Lady Toppers will travel for a matchup on Monday at 7 p.m. MT. The site is to be determined if North Dakota were to win.

“We’re going to have to step up,” Heard said. “…The competition is going to get tougher as you advance.”