WKU’s season ends in loss at Auburn

Lucas Aulbach

The biggest turn-around in Sun Belt Conference history ended in Auburn, Ala., Sunday.

WKU (22-11) fell to Auburn on the road in the second round of the Women’s National Invitation Tournament. The Lady Toppers’ season is over.

The team exceeded almost all expectations under first-year coach Michelle Clark-Heard this season. Finishing 9-21 last year, the Lady Toppers won 13 more games this season, good for the Sun Belt record for biggest season-to-season improvement.

“It’s been a long season but it’s been a great season.,” she told WKU Radio after the game. “I hate that it had to end but we’re going to continue to keep fighting so we can get better for the future.”

WKU found itself in the WNIT after a second-round loss to Arkansas-Little Rock in the Sun Belt Confernce Tournament about two weeks ago. The Lady Toppers were invited to the tournament as an at-large bid and one of three Sun Belt teams in the competition along with UALR and Florida International.

The Lady Toppers have thrived this season by strong play from it’s two hot-shooting guards — sophomore Alexis Govan and junior Bianca McGee — while relying on double-doubles from sophomore forward Chastity Gooch.

WKU got what it needed from those three players Sunday but couldn’t get much else from its roster.

Govan (23 points), McGee (16 points) and Gooch (19 points, 12 rebounds) all put points on the board, but the other six players who hit the court for WKU combined for eight points.

The Lady Toppers also struggled due to a lack of size. The Lady Tigers fielded seven players over six-foot Friday, and they out-rebounded WKU’s guard-oriented roster 44-36.

Auburn coach Terri Williams-Fourney said at the postgame press conference that WKU did a good job on the offensive boards despite the physical disadvantage.

“They were a very good offensive rebounding team themselves,” she told reporters Friday according to Auburn’s postgame notes. “You think you have an advantage because of height, but you just never know really until the outcome of the game.”

Heard said the loss was a sign that the Lady Toppers have a lot of room to improve in the offseason.

“What we looked at as a staff and what I evaluate is that we’ve just got to get a couple more pieces to the puzzle,” she said. “When we do that, we’re going to be able to knock off a team like Auburn.”

WIth the 2012-13 campaign in its rear-view mirror, WKU can now look ahead and focus on next season.

There are no seniors on the Lady Topper roster, meaning the entire team — plus Heard’s first recruiting class — could return for next season.

Heard said she wants to see every player on her team work to improve their game over the offseason.

“They’ll get back and get some rest and go to school and everything and I think we have some weeks where we can work with them individually,” she said. “We need to get a plan together for each and every individual and we’ve got to get better as a group.”