Gooch scores 19, Lady Toppers beat Louisiana Tech for first home win

Brad Stephens

The Lady Toppers had some time last week time to regroup after a 1-6 start to their season.

Head Coach Mary Taylor Cowles said her team took advantage of the days between their Nov. 29 loss to Bowling Green State and their game on Monday against Louisiana Tech, having their best practices of the year.

The practice carried over on Monday in WKU’s 69-54 win over the Lady Techsters at Diddle Arena.

It was the first home win of the season for the Lady Toppers (2-6).

“Coach Cowles had complimented us on how good our last few practices have been,” freshman forward Chasity Gooch said. “And it showed.”

Gooch led WKU with a game-high 19 points and added nine rebounds in her first career start.

Playing against a Louisiana Tech team that started four guards, the former Franklin-Simpson High School standout spent much of the night posting up and using her strength to get good looks inside.

“She got the chance to start tonight and she took advantage,” sophomore guard Chaney Means said of Gooch. “It shows the type of player that she is that she didn’t crumble under pressure when we needed her to step up.

“A guard can’t really guard her. She’s stronger than any of the guards we’re going to face.”

Gooch was one of several Lady Toppers who filled in offensively as senior forward LaTeira Owens, WKU’s leading scorer this year, scored just four points on 2-of-13 shooting.

Means, just four days removed from surgery to repair a broken nose, hit three first-half three-pointers and finished with nine points off the bench.

Senior guard Vanessa Obafemi also connected on three three-point field goals, finishing with ten points.

Meanwhile senior forward Keshia Mosley scored 12 points and pulled down nine rebounds in 17 minutes off the bench, just one board away from her second straight double-double.

Freshman guard Ileana Johnson also chipped in with six points and a career-high seven assists off the bench.

Overall the Lady Topper bench outscored the Lady Techsters’ subs 28-9.

“We don’t know who it’s going to be on any given night, but we do know that it’s going to take everybody on every night,” Cowles said. “This is not a team that’s dominated by one or two players. This has to be a team effort.”

The Lady Toppers led by nine in the final seconds of the first half when Obafemi chased down a loose ball at mid-court.

Obafemi took two dribbles and heaved up a 35-foot shot at the buzzer that bounced off the rim and fell through to give WKU a 36-24 halftime leaf.

Louisiana Tech didn’t pull within single-digits again until the 4:13 mark of the second half.

“She had some big threes tonight,” Means said of Obafemi. “It’s good to have her step up and contribute like that because she’s a great shooter.”

The Lady Toppers’ lead hovered around 12 points for much of the second half, as WKU didn’t allow the Lady Techsters to shoot their way back into the game.

Louisiana Tech shot just 35 percent for the game and 20 percent from behind the arc in the second half.

“I thought our defense was very good just to open the game,” Cowles said. “I thought we were very active in moving really well with our hands and our feet and just covering the floor.”

Guard Whitney Jones led the Lady Techsters with 13 points, while forward Shantale Bramble-Donaldson and guard Jasmine Bendolph scored 12 and 11, respectively.

The Lady Toppers now have a quick turnaround before their next game, a road date with Tennessee Tech at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday.

The Golden Eagles (2-6) are currently on a four-game losing streak.

Tennessee Tech is led in scoring by guard Tacarra Hayes 14.3 points per game.

Hayes, a former Marion County High School standout, is the only Golden Eagle averaging double-digit points this season.

After that WKU will travel to Illinois State for a game on Friday, then come back to Diddle to open Sun Belt Conference play on Sunday against Florida International.

“This is a tough week,” Cowles said. “But we’ve got to learn, we’ve got to grow up and learn how to handle a win, turn right back around and prepare and be ready to go again on Wednesday.”