Dominating defense has been the story of the Lady Toppers’ young season — that is until Saturday night.
Illinois State walked into Diddle Arena and handed WKU its first loss of the season, 83-68.
ISU (3-2) was the first opponent in the last 24 games to score more than 80 points against WKU (3-1).
Coach Michelle Clark-Heard said allowing teams to score that high isn’t something this team plans to do.
“As much as we’ve harped on defense, I’m very disappointed,” Heard said. “We’re not going to win ball games if we’re letting people score 80 points.”
After the Redbirds scored the game’s first six points, the Lady Toppers stormed back to tie the score with a Chastity Gooch jumper.
That tie just under five minutes into the game was as close as WKU would get to the lead.
The Lady Toppers entered the game planning to shut down ISU’s leading scorers in forward Janae Smith and guard Jamie Russell, but it was Candace Skyes that came off the bench for the Redbirds to score 22 points, including five 3-pointers.
“The problem is that we shut down the two leading scorers under their average, but Sykes comes off the bench and scores 22 points,” Heard said. “We have to regroup and understand the roles of the other players that come off the bench.”
Turnovers hurt the Lady Toppers in the first half as the team gave up the ball 13 times. Last week against Florida International, WKU committed 11 in the whole game.
The Lady Toppers have also shot 70 percent or more from the free throw line, but Saturday night WKU only made 10 of its 18 free throws. Meanwhile ISU shot 84 percent from the foul line.
WKU came out of the half with a much more aggressive offensive approach. The Lady Toppers shot much better in the second half and took more shots from 3-point land, connecting on half of them.
Danay Fothergill led the charge with three straight 3-pointers as the second half wound down to pull the Lady Toppers within eight, but ISU answered every WKU basket with a score of its own.
WKU couldn’t score in the last 2:48 seconds as ISU pulled away with a 15-point win in Diddle.
Gooch recorded her fourth consecutive double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds. Fothergill came off the bench to lead the team with 15 points, including four 3-pointers. Alexis Govan followed with 13 points.
Fothergill said it was frustrating for the defense to give up points answered off of Lady Topper scores.
“Coach told us the important part of the second half was our defense,” Fothergill said. “Our offense will come, it’s just that defense is what we had to do and we didn’t get it done.”
WKU will now hit the road for two straight conference games, starting with Louisiana-Monroe Thursday night at 5:15.