Govan scores 40 as Lady Tops improve to 4-0 in Sun Belt play

Western Kentucky sophomore guard Alexis Govan scored a career-high 40 points, and the Lady Toppers stayed undefeated in Sun Belt Conference play Saturday with an 82-80 win over North Texas at E.A. Diddle Arena.

Govan made 16 of 20 field goals – the second-most makes in a game in program history – and her 40 points tied for the third-most in a game by a Lady Topper. Crystal Kelly scored a record 42 points Feb. 23, 2008, against Louisiana-Monroe.

The Lady Toppers improved to 11-2 and 4-0 in conference action. This year’s WKU squad is the first in program history to reach 11 wins before the new year.

Sophomore forward Chastity Gooch recorded her 12th double-double in 13 games with 15 points and 11 rebounds, and junior guard Bianca McGee chipped in 12 points.

Here are some postgame comments from Govan, Gooch and coach Michelle Clark-Heard:

MICHELLE CLARK-HEARD, coach

On Govan’s 40 points: “We didn’t have a very good practice at all. She’s always the one I can key on and know she’s going to show up every day. She struggled a little bit (Friday), and after practice, I challenged her to let her know she’s a big part of why we’re where we’re at.”

“She’s the emotional leader, she’s the one that talks. She does it all. I’m so proud of her. To be able to have a game like this, she did an incredible job.”

Getting fight from North Texas: “I told them every day in practice that it was going to be a battle. North Texas is a good team. I’m proud of our girls. We made some crazy turnovers at the end … but at the end of the day, when it was time to go to the free throw line and knock it down, we did.”

“You can’t just key on one or two players. That’s one of the things for us, stopping people from going to the basket or getting in the lane. I think they’ve got a chance to do really good. I’m actually dreading when we’ve got to go back and play them.”

More on Govan: “The biggest thing with Alexis right now is her confidence. She’s playing like the player she is and the player she was when I got here. Kudos to the last staff that could get Alexis Govan to come here to Western Kentucky because she’s a heck of a player. I’m excited that I’m going to get a chance to coach her for three years.”

Govan expanding her game: “She’s grown because she wants to be really good. She comes in every day and watches film. She does those things, and that’s what good players do. I always challenge her. I know she can go. She’s got one of the best first steps on any girl that I’ve seen. She can get to the basket, so I’ve challenged her to make sure she can shoot the pull-up jumper because people are going to stop guarding her. They’ll cut it off, and she’s become more patient in the game.”

“I’m really happy for her, that her game is continuing to grow, she’s seeing success and the team is seeing some success. That’s what she’s all about. It’s never about Alexis. She’s very much a team player.”

“Alexis Govan is very special, and she’s special because she can do a lot of different things. To be able to shoot the 3 with confidence, and then being able to get to the basket, shoot a pull-up and shoot very good from the free-throw line – when you can shoot that good from the field and make free throws, you’re going to put numbers up.”

“I had no idea that she had 40 because she plays so much within the game. We depend on her, but we also have Chastity Gooch, Bianca McGee. We have different people that can do different things. This is very much a huge team win.”

Being 4-0 in conference: “We have a tough swing here coming up. To be able to have that cushion is a big deal.”

ALEXIS GOVAN, sophomore guard

On her 40 points: “All the coaches challenged me (Friday), especially coach (Michelle Clark-Heard),” Govan said. “I didn’t have a good practice and I wasn’t a good leader. She challenged me to step up today. I just wanted to play some defense, and everything else just happened.”

“I just took what the defense gave me and did whatever. My teammates got me the ball, and I did what I could.”

Staying perfect in conference: “It was great. The goal was to get out of here 4-0, and that’s what we did. We knew there was a lot of history that could be made here tonight, but our main focus was staying undefeated in conference. That’s the big picture.”

CHASTITY GOOCH, sophomore forward

On Govan’s game: “Alexis had an amazing game. We kept giving her the ball, and she kept producing. Why not?”

Being 4-0 in conference: “It’s very important. We made a statement, I feel like. We’re still making one.”

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Transcript of Lance Guidry’s speech before Little Caesars Pizza Bowl

From my cozy living room, here’s a transcript of WKU interim football coach Lance Guidry’s pregame speech before Wednesday’s Little Caesars Pizza Bowl:

“Last year, we were juniors. We started off 0-4. You started off 0-4, fellas. Then you won seven of eight games. Only loss was to LSU – at the time was No. 1 team in the country. So you won seven out of eight games to get bowl eligible, then you got your hearts cut out your damn chests by every bowl committee – every damn one. But tonight, guess what seniors? You stand on top of that hill, and we stand with you on top of that hill, like a team of damn gladiators. That’s what we are. We’re a team of damn gladiators. Do you understand me? Coach Taggart said he wanted to build a bully at WKU. We are that bully tonight, and we’re standing on top of our damn hill. We are that badass dude! As I said once before, let’s go get our damn trophy!”

WKU sophomore Danay Fothergill asks for release from Lady Topper program

WKU sophomore guard Danay Fothergill

WKU sophomore guard Danay Fothergill

Western Kentucky sophomore Danay Fothergill is planning to transfer from the Lady Topper program.

Fothergill’s father, Mark Fathergill, confirmed to the Daily News on Wednesday that the 5-foot-7-inch guard from Somerset has asked for her release, although it hasn’t been completed yet by WKU.

Mark Fothergill declined to comment on the reason for his daughter’s transfer before it’s official, except to say she’s “looking for a good fit.”

WKU declined comment Wednesday on Fothergill, saying it “has no update on the situation at this time” in a statement.

Fothergill is averaging 3.6 points and 2.3 rebounds in 14.1 minutes per game for the Lady Toppers (10-2) this season. She’s played in every game and made one start, shooting 31.1 percent from the field and 22.2 percent from 3-point range.

Fothergill averaged 5.4 points per game as a freshman at WKU and 22.3 points per game as a senior at Southwestern High School.

Her absence would leave the Lady Toppers with 10 players on the roster, including nine active. Freshman guard Kendall Noble is out with a season-ending knee injury.

WKU hosts Sun Belt Conference foe North Texas at 4 p.m. Saturday at E.A. Diddle Arena.

Lady Toppers talk about 84-67 win at Wright State

DAYTON, Ohio – The Western Kentucky women’s basketball team shot 54.5 percent from the field and recorded a season-high 20 assists Wednesday at Wright State, earning an 84-67 win over the Raiders in the Wright State Invitational at the Nutter Center in Dayton, Ohio.

With the victory, the Lady Toppers (9-2) improved to 6-0 on the road this season and matched last year’s win total.

Sophomore forward Chastity Gooch finished with 22 points and 15 rebounds for WKU, while sophomore guard Alexis Govan added 20 points, eight rebounds and a career-high seven assists.

Junior guard Bianca McGee had 16 points in her second game as a Lady Topper, and freshman guard Micah Jones scored 15 points on five 3-pointers.

Kim Demmings paced Wright State (5-5) with 26 points.

The Lady Toppers advance to the championship of the Wright State Invitational, where they’ll face Florida A&M at 3:30 p.m. CST Friday.

Here are some postgame comments from Gooch, Govan, McGee and coach Michelle Clark-Heard.

MICHELLE CLARK-HARD

Opening thoughts: “That’s the best basketball we’ve played. I’m so proud of them, to be able to share the basketball and shoot 54 percent from the field.”

Wright State: “(Kim) Demmings is a big-time player. She came up to Western and scored on them last year, but we adjusted … and they all bought in. This was a huge win for us.”

What made offense click? “This group is really close, and I think they play that way on the floor and feed off of each other. When Bianca started to hit shots and Alexis started to hit, they all truly get happy for each other. That’s what sets us apart. These kids really want the best for their teammates.”

Addition of McGee: “When you have different people scoring and can have someone like Bianca coming off the bench, it’s a bonus for us. She played within the system. This was a good game for her, to get that second one under her belt and keep growing.”

Team not being satisfied: “It’s good to see they think more and more about that every day – about where we can go and where we’re trying to reach. That’s the part, as a coach, that you have to get excited about.”

“They’re starting to believe that it’s not just about winning one game. They want to keep winning, and that’s the mentality I want them to have.”

On Florida A&M: “They’re very similar to Troy to me. They’ve got kids that can get up and down the floor and score. They’re very athletic. We’re going to have to get back in transition and score. I think we’ll have a size advantage with Chastity and Jalynn, but we’re going to have to guard.”

Update on Kendall Noble’s knee surgery: “It went well. It was just her ACL and nothing else torn. I talked to her today, and I’m glad she got the surgery over with so she can move forward and get ready for rehab.”

ALEXIS GOVAN, sophomore guard

First thoughts: “We played for the full 40 minutes. Coach was preaching to us that we need to put two halves together, and we got out of here with the win.”

Why did team play so well? “We were confident in each other. We do a lot of extra shooting as a team, so we knew when we passed to someone, they were going to knock it down, and then we’d get back on defense.”

Addition of McGee: “It’s big. It takes a lot of pressure off Chastity and me, and also takes pressure of Micah and everybody else. It just gives teams someone else they have to guard.”

Being 9-2: “It’s really fun, but we’re not going to settle for matching last year. We’re going to exceed that.”

What to do against Florida A&M: “We want to put two halves together again. We hope we can come out and make shots and play confident.”

BIANCA McGEE, junior guard

Strong game: “We decided to come out and play like a team. Coach got on us a little bit in pregame, telling us to go hard, talk and play together. We paid attention to detail and acted like a team.”

How do you think you played? “It’s all about helping the team win. Whatever the team asks me to do, I’ll do it. It wasn’t about points. It was just about scoring when I got the opportunity and playing like a team. If the opportunity presented itself, of course I’ll put the ball in the bucket. Other than that, it was about getting the ‘W.'”

On not knowing much about A&M yet: “We have coach Collins, coach Richards and coach Mansfield as our assistant coaches, so I know they know exactly what’s going on.”

On not being satisfied: “We’re happy we won, but we didn’t win a championship. We have more games to win. It’s not like we weren’t expecting to win. We won this one, so good job for us. Now we have another one (today).”

CHASTITY GOOCH, sophomore forward

On Heard’s pregame speech: “We took that to heart. She was talking about how important this game was for us, so we did what we had to do.”

On her own game: “I started out a little slow. They double-teamed me and got a little frustrated, but after we came out, I took a deep breath and just played.”

On McGee: “I couldn’t wait for her to get out there and start playing with us.”

On being 9-2 after 9-21 season: “The bus rides home are a lot more fun. We can laugh and have a good time, and it feels great.”

Kevin Peoples added to Petrino’s WKU staff, Peterson likely ineligible and other football notes

Filled in for Chad Bishop again today at WKU football practice, where we gained a couple bits of newsworthy info.

First, the Daily News has learned that former Arkansas defensive line coach Kevin Peoples has joined new WKU coach Bobby Petrino’s staff.

Deborah Wilkins, WKU’s chief of staff and general counsel, confirmed Tuesday that People is on board.

How can Petrino make hires when his contract doesn’t start until Jan. 1, you ask? Wilkins explained that although new coaches won’t be “officially” hired until the start of the new year, the school pays them retroactively from the day they start.

Because of that, Peoples’ position and salary likely won’t be available until Jan. 1, Wilkins said.

Peoples – dressed in WKU gear – was in the stands Tuesday with Petrino, who watched the Tops’ 10th bowl practice from just outside the Jack and Jackie Harbaugh Club at Houchens-Smith Stadium.

The WKU athletic department said Tuesday that it’s not aware of any official movement with the coaching staff at this time.

Here is Peoples’ bio from Arkansas.

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We also learned Tuesday that senior safety Kareem Peterson is likely academically ineligible for the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl on Dec. 26.

“He’s not going to make the game,” interim coach Lance Guidry said. “It comes down to academics. We’ll see, but right now, it doesn’t look like it. The grades aren’t finalized yet, but from what he’s indicating to us, I don’t think he’ll make it.”

Here are full comments Tuesday from Guidry and sophomore receiver Willie McNeal:

LANCE GUIDRY

Players getting anxious? “Yeah, they’re getting a little anxious. We’ve probably got about three practices left. Today, tomorrow we’ll have a little bit of something special for him. They’ll practice again on Thursday and Friday, and then we’ll have a good walkthrough on Saturday and hit every situation before we get to Detroit.”

Do you want to simmer down their excitement any? “No, we don’t really want to. Just let them do what they’re doing. We’re trying to keep them focused the whole time. Today, we’ll go against each other a lot. They always like competing against each other. They’ve been going at Central Michigan’s offense and defense now, so they’re familiar with what they’ll be up against.”

“There’s so many changes so quick. I think they’re ready to get to Detroit and see what it has to offer.”

How did you try to keep them honed in at Miami (Ohio)? “It was a little different last time. They didn’t name a coach until right before we left. They didn’t know who was going to be their coach, so everything I said, they was going to make sure they did it. This time, they know who their coach is going to be next year. That doesn’t do anything for the seniors, of course, but I think it’s better that it happened early this time. That way we can get it over with and go on to our normal routine.”

How much Central Michigan prep have you done? “We hit it pretty good, but we’ve been giving it in spots. Thursday will be a real big day on them, and so will Friday. We’ll go over really what we’re doing on Saturday with the walkthrough. I’m sure they’ll have some wrinkles, and we’ll have to adjust as we always do.”

You told USA Today you don’t expect to be retained. What’s the reasoning behind that? “Anytime a guy takes over a program, he wants his own guys. He wants guys that he can trust. It’s just part of the business. Same thing happened to us in Miami. We had the largest turnaround in the history of college football, and he didn’t keep one guy. I’m just going with the odds right now.”

WILLIE McNEAL

Are things calming down now? “We’re settled in, locked in. It’s basically game week.”

Are players getting anxious? “It’s been a long time, so we’re tired of going against each other. It’s kind of like spring football now. We’re very anxious.”

How much have you looked at Central Michigan? “We’ve been looking at them since day one, since we found out that we were playing them.”

Thoughts on the fates of the current coaches? “I wish they were all still here, but as far as that, I can’t really tell you. We’re just focused on Central Michigan right now.”

How much confidence do you have in Guidry running the show? “I’ve got a lot of confidence in coach G because he has a lot of confidence in us. I respect coach G and everything he says.”

Has Guidry been different since he got interim title? “We get to see him more as an offense. It’s fun having coach G around, getting everybody crunk with his little hype moments.”

Jakes, Lewis talk at WKU football’s ninth bowl practice

As promised (albeit a little late), here are a few comments from WKU senior quarterback Kawaun Jakes and senior defensive lineman Rammell Lewis before Monday’s ninth bowl practice.

KAWAUN JAKES

On bowl game growing near: “It’s really nice. It’s actually game week. We’ve got something to look forward to the following week, so we’re very excited.”

How do you stay focused through long bowl prep? “Just stay around each other. Well, we’re the only ones on campus right now anyway. We talk about what we want to accomplish. Stay positive. Laugh a lot. This is a reward for us, but we don’t want to just go play. We want to win and enjoy it.”

On assistant coaches Walt Wells and Eric Mathies: “Those guys have been here since day one with us. Coach Wells always had our back no matter what. Those guys, you can look up to them, and we tell the young guys to look up to them, too.”

On benefits of having consistency with staff: “It’s good. They can tell you about their experiences with coaching changes and how players can go about it. If something was to happen again, you can know what they expect.”

RAMMELL LEWIS

Bowl game getting close: “At the end of the day, we’re trying to come out here and have fun. This is something we’ve never done before. It’s kind of new to the program, the fans and us, and we’re just embracing the whole bowl preparation.”

How do you stay focused? “The coaches have done a good job of mixing things up – variety. They’re trying to make sure they don’t bore us with the constant practices, back to back.”

On seven players graduating last weekend: “That’s what we all came here for, to leave with a meaningful degree and continue our journey to the next step in life, which is to get a job and settle in, progress and have a family one day. It was a big day for all of us. It was great for all of us to do something they’ve said they expect out of us from day one.”

On Wells and Mathies: “They’ve been motivators. They’ve encouraged us to do what’s right and finish strong. I’ve been able to look toward them, especially coach Mathies, for guidance. He’s been outstanding and kept me on track. It’s been great to have them around my entire career.”

WKU football assistant coaches Walt Wells, Eric Mathies talk about senior class, changes

I filled in today at WKU football practice for Chad Bishop, who’s on the road with the basketball Tops as they prepare for Virgina Commonwealth.

I talked today with assistant coaches Walt Wells and Eric Mathies – the only coaches that have been with the seniors throughout their time at WKU – as well as seniors Kawaun Jakes and Rammell Lewis, who graduated on Saturday.

I’m about to cover some high school hoops, but for now, here are comments from Wells and Mathies.

Wells confirmed that the assistant coaches are still awaiting their fates under new coach Bobby Petrino. The assistants set up meetings today with Petrino, Wells said.

WALT WELLS

Seeing the seniors through: “It’s been great and satisfying to see those guys to buy into a vision we sold them a long time ago. Of course, the vision’s changed through the coaching changes and things like that, and those guys have persevered and stayed through it. They’ve all worked really hard, and they’re reaping the rewards now. It’s fun to watch those guys grow up and to see success at the end of their careers.”

The adversity those players have faced: “This is just a small part of life, and this is preparing them for life. If the biggest thing they go through is a coaching change, they’ll be OK. They’ll know how to deal with adversity, job changes, boss changes. God forbid something tragic happens to their family, at least they understand how to react to certain situations.”

Wells and Mathies being constants on the staff: “I think that helps them have some success. I’m not saying our coaching or anything like that, but more hearing the same voices, same things coming through again and again. It keeps that comfort level there.”

Coaches dealing with all the changes: “It tries you. You talk about mentally tough – this is a business you have to be mentally tough in. If you’re mentally tough in this business, you’re not gonna last. I’ve been fortunate. I’ve been here 10 years. It started with coach Harbaugh, and it’s ending with – well, I don’t know if it’s ending – but right now, it’s ending with coach Taggart. This has become my school because I’ve been here so long. My daughter knows nothing but here, my son was born here and my wife works on the Hill. For us, it’s been a family affair.”

More on time at WKU: “You think through all the things you’ve been through – being a consistent winner, being a consistent loser, back to a consistent winner. That’s part of the process, and it’s helped make me who I am as a coach and person.”

Is staff still waiting to hear if they’ll be retained? “We set some things up today coach Petrino. We’ll see how that goes, but we’re all professionals. We understand the business, and that’s the business end of it. I told my wife when Willie kept us, ‘Hey, we survived the first one. If another round comes, I don’t know what will happen.’ We’ve just got to roll with it. The most important thing is winning this football game for these seniors and completing this transition. If we do that, I can’t speak for (Mathies), we’ll feel like we’ve brought this thing where it needs to be, and we’ll feel good about our time here.”

ERIC MATHIES

Senior class: “It’s fun to see the process and see them grow. You see them as high school seniors or juniors, and all of a sudden, you see their development. … They become men, but they have to have someone to lean on. Me being there and having them lean on me for guidance, it’s gratifying.”

All the changes: “With everything we’re going through right now, it couldn’t end smooth. It just couldn’t. Everything’s got to be a rocky road, but with what they’ve been through, if what they’ve accomplished up this point is any indication, I think we’re going to finish this thing off pretty good next week.”

More on the changes: “It’s all adversity. From when they first started, to losing coach Elson, to that 0-20 streak, losing coach Taggart. Now you’ve got a whole coaching staff that may not be here. But they’re still out here, still working, still persevering. Life’s about how you handle times of struggle.”

Players needing consistency with coaches: “So much in our society, especially young men, there’s a lot of people in and out of their lives, especially young, black men. There’s a lot of inconsistency at times. When you find something that is consistent, they tend to flourish. That’s what’s going on with this group. Yeah, I got lucky that coach Taggart kept me when Elson got fired. And in the grand scheme of things, it might have been the best thing for those kids.”