Lady Toppers look ahead to opener at Murray State

We spoke with the Lady Toppers today about Friday’s season opener at 5:15 p.m. at Murray State, as well as last week’s exhibition win over Harding.

Here are some thoughts from coach Michelle Clark-Heard, sophomore guard Danay Fothergill and freshman guard Micah Jones.

DANAY FOTHERGILL, sophomore guard

On last week’s exhibition win: “In the scoring aspect, we ran the ball and scored a lot of points, but I think we knew there were a lot of things on defense that we had to work on. We gave up 64 points, and that’s something we know we can’t have.”

On Murray State game: “This is what we’ve been waiting for all preseason. We’re ready for Friday.”

On Micah Jones: “She’s been doing absolutely awesome at point guard. I know she kind of ran some of that in high school, but she’s stepped up as a leader, and that’s what you have to do as a point guard. She controls the floor and handles it the way a point guard needs to handle it.”

On what to tell the freshmen about playing on the road: “You have to come out the same. There’s not going to be the fan crowd energy, so we have to bring more of the energy, in terms of cheering, talking. I think the gym will be packed, so we have to communicate on the floor and bring our own energy.”

On this time this year compared to last season: “We’re definitely ready to show our fans what we have. That’s definitely one thing we have to get back, is our fans. I think we’re all excited to show them.”

On her progress since last season: “I think I’ve gotten in a lot better shape. I’ve lost some weight, which has helped me being able to run up and down the floor, which is what this team is going to be doing – just scoring quick and getting it and going. Conditioning is a big part. And I’m naturally a shooter, so I’m going to be ready to shoot all the time.”

On Kendall Noble being out, team having eight active players: “I’m hoping she gets better fast, but coach just said that someone has to step up now. Someone has to fill in her roles and help this team out. We’re all just doing our part plus a little extra to make up for it.”

MICAH JONES, freshman guard

On Friday’s game at Murray: “I’m really excited. We’ve been working hard since the summer, and I want to see how it all pays off.”

On switching to point guard: “The transition hasn’t been that bad because we play all guards out, but my teammates are helping me and telling me what I need to do. I know there’s a lot that I can still work on, but I thought we played well as a team the other day.”

On Murray State: “I know they have two really good guards, and I know they have quite a bit of size. But I think we can handle that if we just block out and play good defense. We’ve worked on different defensive sets that’ll help us. I know they shoot quick, and coach Heard said they don’t miss a lot of shots, so we can’t give them second-chance points.”

MICHELLE CLARK-HEARD, coach

On this Friday’s game: “Murray State is going to be a challenge. It’s always a challenge on the road, in your first game, but I’m looking forward to it. We’ve been preparing and trying to get ready. Murray has three of its starters returning, and the biggest thing about their team is that they love to score in transition and score quick. They have two or three kids that can shoot the 3, so we’ll have to guard in transition. They also have some big kids. They have a junior-college transfer that’s 6-3, 6-4, so … we’ll have to change up a lot defensively to make sure we can sustain what we’re trying to do.”

Significance of Friday’s game: “To be able to come out and get a win on the first road game would be awesome, but does it dictate our whole season? No. This is preparing us and getting us ready. Nonconference is always giving you the opportunity to get ready for the Sun Belt, and that’s what we’re doing.”

What to do on the road: “It’s about us. At the end of the day, it’s about what we do and how we execute. We’re working on a lot of things for us to continue getting better. We’re preparing for Murray State, but we have to turn around and play here on the 17th, and then we have our first conference game against FIU. The biggest things are consistency, playing hard and the effort.”

On using different defensive sets: “On defense, that’s where they’re going to have to put their thinking hat on. We’ll have to adjust in different ways, and them being smart basketball players with high IQs, it helps a lot. It allows us and our staff to change things on the fly.”

On being shorthanded, not liking to talk about small numbers with players: “On the flip side of that, I talk to them about, now, they’re going to have the opportunity and chance to play. Who wouldn’t want to know you’re going to play and have the opportunity to get on the floor, day in and day out?”

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