Lady Toppers host national runner-up No. 4 Louisville tonight

Sophomore forward Chastity Gooch makes a layup on a fast break against Troy in the first half at E.A. Diddle Arena on Wednesday Jan. 30, 2012

Kyle Williams

Coming off a victory at Northern Kentucky on Saturday, the Lady Topper basketball team is set to host last year’s national runner-up No. 4 Louisville tonight at 7 p.m. in Diddle Arena.

The match-up will mark the first time a top-five team has visited Diddle Arena since 1998. WKU (4-1) holds a 6-8 record against top-five teams in Diddle Arena and is 24-17 all-time against the Lady Cardinals.

It’s also a reunion of sorts for WKU coach Michelle Clark-Heard and Louisville coach Jeff Walz. Heard spent five seasons under Walz’s tutelage at Louisville before accepting the coaching position at WKU. The two also spent a time as assistant coaches together at WKU under former coach Paul Sanderford.

Assistant coaches Candyce Bingham, Margaret Richards and Greg Collins have also grown familiar with Walz before coming to the Hill. Bingham and Richards were both graduate assistants under Walz and Collins was an assistant coach at Louisville. Bingham also played for Walz as a part of the 2009 national finalist team.

Louisville (6-0) has five players averaging more than 10 points and the team is shooting a combined 49 percent from the field in its first six games.

Heard said it will be a tough task slowing down Louisville’s high-powered offense and that ball security would be key for the Lady Toppers.

“They’re averaging 90 points a game,” Heard said. “They have different people that can score…we’re going to focus on them, of course, but…we’re going to have to focus on us — as a team…As a team we’re going to have to be poised enough and confident enough to take care of the basketball.”

Junior forward Chastity Gooch said the Lady Toppers used their match-up with Vanderbilt from earlier this year as a learning tool for games like this.

WKU has to play with poise in order to take down the Lady Cardinals, she said.

“We just have to talk to one another,” Gooch said. “We have to calm each other down. If we see somebody kind of getting out of control, we have to tell that person it’s okay.”

The Lady Toppers, who are coming off a two-game road sweep of SEMO and NKU, will look to notch their 14th home victory over the Cardinals at 7 p.m. on Wednesday. Free whiteout t-shirts will be handed out to the first 1,000 fans.

Heard said she’s happy WKU can offer fans high-quality competition this season on the Diddle Arena court.

“That’s the most important thing,” Heard said. “To be able to have someone of Louisville’s caliber come on our home floor and to be able to have the opportunity for our fans and just for the team…it’s going to be a big challenge, but we’re super excited about it.”