Pratt: Future is bright for Lady Topper basketball

WKU junior guard Chanell Lockhart tries to drive the ball past Baylor freshman forward Nina Davis 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)

Elliott Pratt

WACO, Texas – There were 6,207 (myself included) fans who sat in the Ferrell Center Saturday night at Baylor University and watched something unprecedented happen.

A lot of attention has been brought to WKU sports with the presence of Bobby Petrino last year and the back-to-back NCAA Tournaments from the men’s basketball team in the last two years.

But Saturday night on ESPN2, not many knew anything about this team that wore red and white with WKU on the front of the jersey.

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Even a man sitting next to me on press row leaned over and asked me, ‘What exactly do you call that mascot?’, as Big Red was staring at him shaking his belly.

It was the largest crowd to watch a Lady Topper game this season, except for the crowd was wearing green and yellow. Only about 50 WKU fans made the 14 hour drive or flight to Texas.

This was supposed to be a neutral court post-season game, but WKU was in hostile territory.

The script was in place for WKU to become a sacrificial lamb of a powerhouse Baylor team with its eyes set on the Final Four in Nashville.

Then, the unprecedented happened.

The Lady Toppers were loose and comfortable, they looked the part and showed they belonged against the Lady Bears.

When Baylor opened the game with a 3-pointer by Makenzie Robertson, I thought to myself “here we go”. It was about to be the typical No.2-seed blowout of another victim of the No.15-seed.

But as the Lady Toppers have done all year, they proved everyone wrong – they proved me wrong.

The Lady Toppers made smart shot selections and orchestrated many runs that put the Lady Bears on their heels. Even assistant head coach Bill Brock said WKU had “one of the better shooting performances” than any other opponent to enter the Ferell Center.

But this loss didn’t get them down. The Lady Toppers held their heads high walking off the court Saturday night, as they should have.

Baylor is a team that plays the best in the country every week, and the Lady Bears were extremely complimentary of the way the Lady Toppers played. To have those things said about you and with only two seniors – Chaney Means and Bianca McGee – leaving the program, there’s plenty to be excited about for Lady Topper basketball.

The performances of Chastity Gooch and Kendall Noble against Baylor showed they can play at an elite level.

Add in the recruiting class featuring the 2014 Kentucky Miss Basketball, Ivy Brown, fellow McDonald’s All-American nominee Tashia Brown, and Shalika Smith from Glasgow and you’ve got a combination of talent this school hasn’t seen in a while.

Oh, and I forgot one person – Alexis Govan. The Preseason Sun Belt Player of the Year was averaging 16.5 points, 4.6 rebounds and 2.5 steals per game in the 11 games she played this season.

Combining all of that in with a 10 game winning streak ending in a fight with Baylor, there’s a lot of momentum riding into Conference USA next season for the Lady Toppers. It’s going to be fun watching this team for many years to come.