Winless WKU to face Duke

Brad Stephens

Head Coach Mary Taylor Cowles will be hoping her Lady Toppers can do something on Sunday they haven’t done in the last three years — beat Duke.

WKU is 0-3 since 2008 against the Blue Devils, a program with a history that includes four Women’s Final Fours and two national championship game appearances.

The Lady Toppers (0-2) will get a chance at their first win of the season when they get their fourth crack in four years at No. 8 Duke

Tipoff is set for 2 p.m. on Sunday in Diddle Arena.

“They’re extremely talented, from player one to player 15,” Cowles said at October’s basketball Media Day. “They’re very dominant at every position.”

The Blue Devils were led in their season opening 61-55 win over Brigham Young by sophomore point guard Chelsea Gray.

  A former high school national player of the year, Gray scored 15 points, notched six steals and pulled down five rebounds in the win.

Duke started guards Chloe Wells and Shay Selby, forward Haley Peters and center Elizabeth Williams alongside Gray in the win.

That core group is being called upon this season to replace a talented bunch of departed seniors.

Duke lost 1,000-point career scorers Jasmine Thomas and Karima Christmas and dominating 6-foot-5 center Krystal Thomas to graduation over the offseason.

“Someone was talking about what they lost, and I don’t think you can go there with Duke,” Cowles said. “They’ve got replacements that are already there.”

Cowles too has been looking for ways to get her team’s young talent on the court whenever possible.

Freshman guard Alexis Govan made the most of her first career start on Tuesday against Northwestern, scoring 11 points while adding five assists and four steals.

Fellow freshman, forward Chasity Gooch, came off the bench to add six points and a team-high 11 rebounds.

Despite the play of Govan and Gooch, WKU got down by an early score of 12-2 and was never able to recover, suffering a 71-57 defeat to the Wildcats.

The game’s pivotal moment came with the Lady Toppers down 30-25 with less than a minute to play in the first half, looking to cut the deficit to one-possession going into the locker room.

But two WKU turnovers led to six straight Northwestern points, and the Wildcats took an 11-point lead to the break.

Cowles said she and her staff are using moments like the Northwestern loss as teaching points for a team with seven freshmen.

“Every moment we have together is a teaching opportunity with this team this year,” she said. “Look at our freshmen — the minutes they’re playing — and then look at what they’re doing.”

But those freshmen will have the toughest test of their short careers on Sunday against Duke.

“What we’re excited about is another opportunity back home in Diddle,” Cowles said. “It’ll be another great Sunday afternoon ballgame.”