Lady Toppers to host WNIT game Thursday

Lucas Aulbach

After a loss in the Sun Belt Conference Tournament, the Lady Toppers still have a chance to finish the 2012-13 season with a win.

WKU (21-10) was selected for an at-large berth Monday night to the Women’s National Invitation Tournament. The Lady Toppers will host East Carolina Thursday at Diddle Arena at 7 p.m. in a first round game.

Tickets, available through the WKU Ticket Office, are $12 for reserved seating and $6 for students. The first 100 students to arrive for the game will be admitted for free.

Coach Michelle Clark-Heard said Tuesday her team is excited to be back in the postseason.

“The biggest thing for us is to have the opportunity to play again in the postseason, which Western Kentucky hasn’t had that for the past two years,” Heard said. “So to have this opportunity with this young group as far as we’ve come all year, it’s a big deal for us.”

WKU is joined by Arkansas-Little Rock, the team that beat the Lady Toppers in the conference tournament last week, and Florida International as the only Sun Belt representatives.

The run to the postseason has come as a surprise to many around the program — the Lady Toppers went 9-21 last season before completing a 21-9 turnaround this year.

ECU (22-9) lost in the semifinals of the Conference USA Tournament. The Lady Pirates are led on offense by Whitney Edwards, who averages 12.3 points and 6.1 rebounds per game.

The winner between WKU and ECU will face the winner of a game between Auburn and Alabama-Birmingham in the second round.

Heard said the she’s most excited for her team to have the chance to play in a high-stakes, win-or-go-home tournament.

“The experience for this team I think would be the greatest thing in tournament time — understanding and knowing it’s one and done,” she said.