Heard seeks improvement during days off

Tyler Lashbrook

The Lady Toppers have had several days off since their last game, but coach Michelle Clark-Heard and the coaching staff are ready to get back on the court.

WKU (16-5, 9-3 Sun Belt Conference) have used the past few days to get some rest before they begin a tough conference stretch.

Heard said the focus for the Lady Toppers is being smart during these days off.

“(We’ve) given them some time off, a couple days off, but also to get better at the things we need to,” Heard said. “Taking care of some defensive things – issues – that I feel like we have to correct and just being able to continue to build on our confidence.”

Coach Heard says that this time of the year is when teams want to hit their stride.

“When you get to the end of January and February is when you should be playing your best basketball,” Heard said. “And that’s one of the focuses we’ve tried to do as a staff.”

The Lady Toppers’ last time out appeared to be a moment when they hit their stride.

On Jan. 30, WKU recorded its highest scoring output of the season in a 98-80 home win over Troy.

The Lady Toppers shot 60 percent from the floor and knocked down seven-of-13 three-point attempts that night.

One of the highlights from that game was sophomore forward Chastity Gooch’s nation-leading 18th double-double of the season.

She recorded 21 points and 12 rebounds against Troy and now has two more double-doubles than the No. 2 player, according to NCAA records.

WKU assistant coach and former player ShaRae Mansfield called Gooch’s season “amazing.”

Mansfield, being a former post player herself, says she’s enjoyed being able to coach Gooch and that what makes her special is her heart and tenacity.

“I know how hard it is,” Mansfield said. “She has what it takes to be, I think, an All-American and as long as she believes in herself then she will accomplish it.”

Mansfield is in her first season of coaching with the Lady Toppers – she originally was brought on board to serve as director of basketball operations but moved to assistant coach after the departure of assistant Curtis Turley.

In early January she was announced as one of 10 former Lady Toppers to be announced to the All-Diddle Team.

Mansfield’s move to assistant coach has benefited in the development of Gooch, who averages 16.8 points and 11.4 rebounds per game, and coach Heard is excited to have her on board.

“It’s hard to be thrown in the fire, but what I talk to her about is just being her natural self.” Heard said, “She has an unbelievable personality, and the kids gravitate to it.”

The Lady Toppers are preparing to enter a stretch in their conference schedule in which they will have no more than three days to rest between any game for the remainder of the season.

WKU will travel to face North Texas (9-13, 8-5 SBC) on Feb. 7 – last time out against the Mean Green, sophomore guard Alexis Govan scored 40 points.