WKU topples Sun Belt favorite UALR in Diddle

WKU sophomore guard Micah Jones gets around UALR guard Taylor Gault and drives towards the basket during the first half of WKU’s game against the University of Arkansas Little Rock Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014 at Diddle Arena in Bowling Green, Ky.

Kyle Williams

WKU (11-4, 3-1 Sun Belt) improved to 6-1 at home with a 65-39 win over Arkansas-Little Rock (8-7, 3-2 Sun Belt) on Wednesday night in Diddle Arena. UALR was picked to win the Sun Belt Conference in the preseason coach’s poll, edging out the Lady Toppers by two first-place votes.

The win marked the first time the team has won back-to-back Sun Belt Conference games by 20 or more points since the 2008 season.

Both teams lacked offensive flow through the first five minutes, combining for just seven points on 3-of-11 shooting before redshirt freshman guard Kendall Noble ignited an 8-0 Lady Topper run to give WKU a 13-4 lead.

The 8-0 run ballooned to 18-2 thanks in part to two consecutive three-pointers from senior guard Chaney Means, who finished the half with eight points on 3-for-3 shooting.

WKU went into the locker room with a 29-15 halftime advantage, which marks the second-best defensive effort in a half during coach Michelle Clark-Heard’s tenure.

Heard said that, due to the absence of junior guard Alexis Govan, other players have stepped up and surprised her in terms of productivity.

“Every game and every day seems to amaze me with this team,” Heard said. “Different people step up. They grow and it’s such a fun group to coach. I’m just super proud of them.”

The Lady Toppers opened the second half much like they were able to in the first – with stifling defense. UALR missed its first seven shots from the field in the second half and committed three turnovers.

WKU converted 50 percent of its second half shots and 3-of-5 from beyond the arc to put away UALR by 26 points.

Junior forward Chastity Gooch led the way for the Lady Toppers with 15 points and eight rebounds. Sophomore guard Micah Jones tallied 14 points and was nine-of-10 from the free throw line. Means added 11 points on three-for-three shooting from three-point territory.

Means said that the Lady Toppers put forth a concerted effort to move the ball against a rugged UALR team. WKU netted eight three-pointers in the contest, which is the most the Lady Trojans have given up all season. UALR came into the contest ranked third nationally in three-point shooting defense.

“We knew that coming in,” Means said. “That we just had to find the open person and everybody knew that was our game plan and I thought we did a good job finding those people.”

The Lady Tops turn around and host Arkansas State on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. CT in a doubleheader with the men’s team in the 31st annual BB&T Classic.