Arkansas State too much for Lady Toppers

Sophomore guard Chastity Gooch (#30) defends against Arkansas State forward Jane Morrill (#11) and guard Ashley Olvera (#12) during their game Saturday.

Tyler Lashbrook

The Lady Toppers dropped their fourth Sun Belt Conference game and third in the last five games Saturday to Arkansas State.

The 78-74 loss was the team’s first conference loss at Diddle Arena this season.

WKU (17-6, 10-4 SBC) started the game off slowly, falling behind 11-3 early to ASU and allowed the Lady Red Wolves to shoot 60 percent from the field in the first half.

Sophomore forward Chastity Gooch and sophomore guard Alexis Govan combined for 26 points on 10-of-17 shooting and carried the Lady Toppers offensively in the first half.

The half ended with the score locked up at 37-37, despite ASU’s early hot shooting.

The Lady Toppers fell behind by as much as eight points two different times in the second half but managed to tie the game up at 65-65 after a left-handed layup by junior guard Bianca McGee.

Gooch fouled out on an over-the-back call with 2:51 left – she finished the game with her nation-leading 20th double-double of the season with 20 points and 15 rebounds.

“When we get in foul trouble, it’s a challenge,” coach Michelle Clark-Heard said. “Our biggest person is six-foot. So it’s always going to be a challenge.”

The challenges didn’t stop WKU from fighting.

The Lady Toppers trailed 69-71 until Govan completed an and-one bucket at the rim and sunk the free throw that followed to give the Lady Toppers a one-point lead with 1:04 left to play.

Jane Morrill of ASU responded with a lay-up of her own on the other end to take the lead back for the Lady Red Wolves.

Govan answered that with a layup to retake the lead 74-73 but Morrill came back and scored with a layup and the foul.

Morrill hit the free throw to give ASU a 76-74 lead with 19.5 seconds to play.

The Lady Toppers brought the ball down but were unable to get a clean shot off and were forced to foul.

Morrill returned to the line where she knocked down two-of-two free throws to give ASU a 78-74 lead – the final score – with four seconds left.

Gooch, who fouled out with just less than three minutes to play said it’s frustrating having to sit and watch the end of a close game.

“You can’t do anything about but cheer them on,” Gooch said.

With Gooch out, the Lady Toppers were forced to play even smaller lineups than they normally play.

Govan said that ASU’s size had something to do with the poor shooting night – the Lady Toppers shot just 46.7 percent from the field after shooting over 50 percent the last two games.

“At one point we had four guards on the floor and they’ve got two big post players in the lane,” Govan said. “It makes you want to settle but we don’t need to. We need to get to the basket.”

The Lady Toppers will prepare to travel to Florida Atlantic and Florida International next week in hope of getting back on the winning track.

WKU has won just two-of-five games in conference on the road.