Strong second half propels WKU to win over UT-Arlington

WKU sophomore guard Micah Jones (5) goes for a shot during the first half of the game against UT Arlington in Diddle Arena on Wednesday, Jan. 29.

Lucas Aulbach

The Lady Toppers put a sloppy first half behind them Wednesday, using a strong second half to roll to a 59-46 home win over UT-Arlington.

WKU (14-5, 6-2 Sun Belt Conference) won its third straight game in front of a crowd of 808 people at Diddle Arena.

UT-Arlington (1-18, 0-8 SBC) exceeded many expectations in the close first half of the game. The Lady Mavericks came into the game riding a seven-game losing streak and had only won one game all season.

Both offenses struggled through the first half, with the score set at 26-25 in favor of WKU after the first 20 minutes.

The Lady Toppers were only able to lead at the half thanks to a putback by junior guard Chanell Lockhart with 1.8 seconds to halftime. WKU hit just 9-of-26 shots in the first half and were outrebounded 27-14. The Lady Toppers finished the game at a 48-34 deficit on the boards.

Coach Michelle Clark-Heard said she was disappointed with the way her team performed coming out of the gate.

“We talked about coming out of the locker room ready to play in the beginning, and that was something that we didn’t do,” Heard said.

The second half, however, was a different story. The Lady Toppers hit shots early and played lockdown defense – UT-Arlington hit just one of its first 10 shots and finished 7-of-29 in the second half – as they pulled out to a 10-point lead eight minutes into the half. WKU cruised to the win from there.

The second half resurgence came in part thanks to stronger play in the post from junior forward Chastity Gooch. She recorded five points and 10 rebounds in the second half to finish with 12 points and 12 boards for the game.

Sophomore guard Micah Jones said the Lady Toppers played with more energy in the second half, which helped make the difference.

“We just had to focus on getting stops ang getting rebounds, which we didn’t do in the first half,” she said. “We didn’t get any 50-50 calls in the first half. So, we just kind of buckled down and got some stops and picked up our energy a little bit.”

Gooch wasn’t the only bright spot on the Lady Topper offense. She was joined by Jones (16 points) and senior guard Bianca McGee (17 points) as double-figure scorers.

Wednesday’s win was the third straight for the Lady Toppers, who have 10 games to go before the Sun Belt Conference Tournament in March. Heard said her team hit its stride thanks to new-found confidence.

“I think they’re starting to believe that they are in a position where they could have a chance to win and continue to keep winning,” Heard said. “But that’s a growing process, and that’s what we’ve got to continue to keep doing.”

WKU will be back in action Saturday at 4:30 p.m. in Diddle Arena as the Lady Toppers take on Texas State.