The Western Kentucky women’s basketball (7-2) blew a 17-point, first-half lead at Kent State, but made eight free throws in the final 48 seconds to secure a 59-53 victory at the Memorial Athletic and Convocation Center in Kent, Ohio.
WKU improved to 5-0 on the road to start the season for the first time since 1994-95 and earned its third nonconference road win for the first time since 2009-10.
The Lady Tops’ five road victories this season matches their total from the last two seasons combined.
Sophomore guard Alexis Govan led the Lady Tops with 17 points, along with seven rebounds and four assists. Sophomore forward Chastity Gooch recorded her eighth double-double in nine games with 15 points and 11 rebounds.
Freshman guard Kendall Noble had five points and three rebounds before leaving the game in the second half with a knee injury. The Hazard native was playing her second game as a Lady Topper after missing the first seven contests with a stress reaction in her leg.
I spoke after the game by phone with coach Michelle Clark-Heard and Govan. Here are their thoughts:
MICHELLE CLARK-HEARD, coach
Opening thoughts on the win: “Every day, they gut it out and they find a way. Kent State came back and played really well, and that’s what’s going to happen when you’re on the road. We hit some big free throws down the line, and you’ve got to be able to do that at someone else’s place.”
Blowing first-half lead: “When you’re up, you’ve got to take care of business. You can’t get loose with the basketball and make turnovers. I was pretty adamant at halftime that I thought we were the better team and had to come out of the locker room and show that.”
Improvement in the second half: “Our adjustment at halftime was great. We went to a different play set that they hadn’t seen with the ball screen, and we scored out of it over and over again.”
Update on Noble: “I’m waiting to hear. We’ve got to get back and see what the doctors say, but I don’t know. I don’t think it’s looking good. I’m feeling for her right now.”
Getting to 7-2 before long break: “It’s great for our kids, especially the returners. It doesn’t make a difference who you’re playing, it’s really hard to go on the road and win five games straight. We’ve been wearing them out. I love this group to death, and I’m excited they’re going to get a break.”
ALEXIS GOVAN, sophomore guard
Thoughts on win: “To be able to come in their house and tough it out was good. It was a rough one for a second, but we pulled through.”
Team message at halftime: “We just needed to suck it up. We all had to just do what we needed to do.”
Making late free throws to seal it: “We work on free throws a lot in practice, so it’s good to see we can knock them down in pressure situations.”
Start to the season: “We’re enjoying it and working hard. Every night we play, we’re working to get another one. Just want to keep adding to that win column.”