Lady Toppers shoot out Jaguars to 81-55 win

WKU senior guard Bianca McGee (22) shoots a three pointer during the first half of WKU’s 81-55 win over South Alabama on Saturday, Feb. 15, 2014 at Diddle Arena in Bowling Green, Ky. McGee landed five 3-point shots for the night. (Mike Clark/HERALD)

Kyle Williams

The Lady Toppers opened on a 26-9 run and led by as much as 30 points en route to a convincing 81-55 victory over South Alabama in Diddle Arena on Saturday afternoon, snapping a five-game losing skid to the Jaguars.

Junior forward Chastity Gooch led WKU (16-8, 8-5 Sun Belt Conference) with 22 points and eight rebounds in just 27 minutes of play. Senior guard Bianca McGee scored 17 points, 15 coming from beyond the arc. Redshirt freshman guard Kendall Noble added 12 points, five rebounds, five assists and eight steals.

The Lady Toppers made 12 three-point baskets on 28 attempts despite having made only 12-of-60 in the previous four contests.

WKU began the game on a 26-9 run behind strong outside shooting and defensive prowess. The Lady Toppers started six-of-seven from beyond the arc and forced eight turnovers through the first eight minutes.

Coach Michelle Clark-Heard, who always preaches the importance of a strong start, was pleased with WKU’s focus to begin the game.

“I’m just happy for the girls,” Heard said. “The way they came out of the locker room ready to play. I’m just very fortunate and I’m blessed to have the opportunity to coach such a great group.”

The Lady Toppers continued their hot shooting through much of the first half, nailing seven of their first 11 attempts from three with 7:21 to play in the period. At that mark, Gooch, McGee and sophomore guard Micah Jones had combined for 26 of the 36 Lady Topper points and were outscoring USA by 14 alone.

WKU headed into halftime with a 48-18 lead. It was the third time the Lady Tops have held a Sun Belt Conference opponent to under 19 points in a half this season.

USA began the second half on a 12-0 run to cut the Lady Topper lead to 48-30 with 16:52 remaining before a Gooch basket on the next possession halted the run.

USA’s Sharon Sanders nailed a three-pointer with 13:34 remaining to cut the Lady Topper lead to 17, but that’s as close as the Jaguars got as WKU ran away with an 81-55 win.

The Lady Toppers totaled 21 assists on 30 made baskets while turning the ball over just 11 times. Heard said WKU’s assist/turnover ratio proved to be vital.

“It was crucial,” Heard said. “We had 21 assists to 11 turnovers. Any coach will tell you that’s an unbelievable number.”

The Lady Toppers have won their last two games by a combined 53 points following a three-game losing streak.

With just five games remaining on the regular-season schedule, McGee said the team knew they had to reverse the losing skid against South Alabama.

“No one wants to lose,” McGee said. “…Coming off a three-game losing streak, we just got in the gym, practiced hard, listened to what the coaches said, executed defensively first and had fun on offense. It worked out well for us.”

WKU looks to add momentum to its two-game winning streak against Louisiana-Monroe next Saturday at 2:00 p.m. CT in Diddle Arena.