Heard wins Lady Topper debut

Elliott Pratt

The Michelle Clark-Heard era began on a winning note Friday night as the Lady Toppers opened the regular season with an 80-69 road win at Murray State.

It was the first time since 2009 that WKU opened the season with a win.

“It was an emotional day for me,” Heard told WKU radio. “I am so proud to be the head coach at Western Kentucky University. I am really excited that we were able to get our first win on the road.”

Sophomore guard Alexis Govan’s impressive play in the opening exhibition rolled over into the Murray State contest.

Govan posted a team-high 26 points.

But it was sophomore forward Chastity Gooch who showed out for the Lady Toppers, posting a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds before fouling out of the game midway through the second half.

Defense was the main focus for the Lady Toppers heading into Friday night’s contest, and they forced 13 Racer turnovers in the first half alone, leading to a double digit lead at intermission.

However, the Lady Toppers had some turnover issues of their own, handing the ball over 29 times to the Racers.

Heard said despite the turnovers, she was still proud of WKU’s effort.

“We turned the ball over much more than I wanted to, but the energy and understanding of learning how to fight was there,” Heard said. “I am really proud of our kids.

“I told our kids that when we are on a roll, we have to jump on them. Our kids really bought into that. I am really happy for them. I hope they enjoy this win because it is really important for them.”

More foul trouble faced the Lady Toppers as junior guard Chaney Means, who finished with 12 points and seven rebounds, joined Gooch on the bench in the second half after fouling out, leaving WKU with seven players for the rest of the game.

“We’re going to always have the opportunity where different people are going to have to step up in different times,” Heard said.

The Lady Toppers will host Northern Kentucky Saturday night as part of the 30th annual BB&T Classic. Tip-off in E. A. Diddle Arena is set for 5:30 p.m.

The Lady Toppers sparked a 16-0 run