Stephens: Role players respond to Heard’s call

Sophomore guard Ileana Johnson is fouled by Troy junior guard Britney McCloud as she goes up for a shot in the first half at E.A. Diddle Arena on Wednesday Jan. 30, 2012

Brad Stephens

Two WKU players showed up to play Sunday against Middle Tennessee — Alexis Govan and Chastity Gooch.

Two players couldn’t do it alone, and the Lady Toppers fell 79-57 to the Blue Raiders despite 46 combined points from their two starts.

Wednesday against Troy everyone showed up for WKU, and the Lady Toppers (16-5, 9-3 Sun Belt Conference) rolled to a 98-80 win over the Trojans (3-17, 0-11) in Diddle Arena. The win snapped a two-game losing streak and kept WKU within two games of East Division leader MTSU.

Coach Michelle Clark-Heard challenged WKU’s role players on Sunday to play better next time out against the Trojans.

“I’m not going to say everybody’s going to get 15 points, but we have to have role players,” Heard said Sunday. “We need everyone to add to what we’re trying to do.”

Those role players answered that call Wednesday.

Junior guard Bianca McGee, who scored two points against MTSU, was WKU’s star against Troy. She scored a game-high 25 points, shooting 8-of-13 and 4-of-6 from three-point range.

“It was very frustrating,” McGee said of Sunday’s loss. “Not only did I not show up the way I should’ve, we lost. It’s one thing to not show up and win, but it’s another to not show up and lose.

“It made me realize how much my team did need me. That’s why I wanted to come back today and give it my all and get the (win), because we didn’t want to lose three in a row.”

Filling a quieter, but just as important role, was fellow junior guard Chaney Means.

Means, WKU’s longest-tenured player, was held scoreless Sunday against the Blue Raiders. She only scored two points Wednesday, but added a career-high eight assists.

“She does the little things,” Heard said of Means. “She’s all over the place, and this team would not be where we’re at without Chaney Means, or for that matter, any of the players on this team.”

The Lady Toppers also got a career-best game from sophomore guard Ileana Johnson. The Flagstaff, Ariz., native scored a career-high 11 points, hitting all four field goal attempts and three of her four free throw attempts.

Johnson, who’s seen sparse playing time for much of the year, said she’s just now becoming the role player WKU needs.

“I hadn’t been doing my role,” Johnson said, “and I felt like I needed to step up and help them and do my part.”

Add the performances of Johnson, McGee and Means to 44 combined points from Gooch and Govan, and the Lady Toppers rolled to a definitive win.

The Trojans are the Sun Belt’s worst defensive team, so it was no surprise WKU nearly put up triple-digits Wednesday.

But regardless of the opponent, it was important for the Lady Toppers to have a strong offensive showing and get the bad taste of a 22-point loss in Murfreesboro, Tenn., out of their heads.

WKU has a week of rest before getting back on the court next Thursday at North Texas.

This is a time for the Lady Topper squad short on experience and short on bodies to get their minds and legs rested and ready for the grind of February and March.

They’ll go into that break with a world of confidence after the way everyone contributed Wednesday.