Lady Toppers talk after 98-80 win over Troy

WKU improved to 16-5 and 9-3 in Sun Belt Conference play Wednesday with a 98-80 win over Troy.

Junior guard Bianca McGee scored a career-high 24 points, while sophomores Alexis Govan and Chastity Gooch added 23 and 21 points, respectively.

Sophomore guard Ileana Johnson added 11 points, and junior guard Chaney Means had a career-high eight assists.

Here are postgame comments from McGee, Means, Johnson and coach Michelle Clark-Heard.

MICHELLE CLARK-HEARD, coach

Opening thoughts: “We made some adjustments on our motion offense, and we converted on those things. But defensively and turning the ball over is still a problem for us. We’ve got to go back and keep working.”

Scoring 98 points vs. Troy: “We knew they were going to get up and down the floor. They shoot it quick. I think the fans probably had a good time watching how that team plays. They have a lot of players that can do a lot of things. They get it up and down the floor on a make or a miss.”

More on offense: “I felt like we were passing the ball and doing some good things, as far as getting the right person the ball at the right time.”

McGee bouncing back: “It was huge. Bianca loves the basketball game and loves to have the ball in her hand. I’m fortunate that I have the opportunity to coach players like I have now because they’re unselfish, they play hard and they have fun.”

Defensive struggles: “We can’t give up 80. They were averaging 74.5 points per game, but I’ll definitely take that 98 points and the opportunity for everybody to get involved.”

On Means: “She does everything a coach could possibly ask for. She’s an emotional leader for us. She does the little things. She’s all over the place, and this team would not be where we’re at without Chaney Means, or for that matter, any of the players on this team.”

On Johnson: “Ileana went home for Christmas break, and she came back the Ileana that I saw when I first got her and we were doing spring workouts. She’s very talented. Ileana is very fast with the basketball and passes it really well. She’s really working and getting herself in a position where her confidence is growing.”

Upcoming stretch: “We understand that every day, I talk about game by game. This was a game we needed to take care of, and now, we’ll let them celebrate. The good thing is that they’re off this weekend and don’t have to play. We’ll practice and get shots and prepare for this stretch we’re getting ready to hit.”

Needing rest: “With our numbers, it’s a chance for them to rest their legs some. And mentally, because we just started school back. There’s adjustments with their classes and their teachers, so I’m glad we got this one under our belt.”

BIANCA McGEE, junior guard

Fast pace: “She said we had to stop them. We can’t trade baskets. You’ll never get up like you want trading baskets, and then it’ll come down to the wire. She didn’t want this game to come down to the wire.”

Sunday’s game vs. MTSU: “It was very frustrating. Not only did I not show up the way I should’ve, we lost. It’s one thing to not show up and win, but it’s another to not show up and lose. It made me realize how much my team did need me. That’s why I wanted to come back today and give it my all and get the dub, because we didn’t want to lose three in a row.”

ILEANA JOHNSON, sophomore guard

Needing off days: “It’s very important to get a couple days of rest. North Texas is going to be a challenge, so we’ve got to get some rest and then go hard the next days to prepare.”

Improvement late: “I felt that I hadn’t been the role player that the team needed. I hadn’t been doing my role, and I felt like I needed to step up and help them and do my part.”

CHANEY MEANS, junior guard

Bouncing back: “All season, we haven’t had a losing streak at all, and coming from last year where it was the opposite way around, it was nice to get back on track. It’ll be good having this win going to North Texas.”

Offense: “I think we did a good job of sharing the ball and getting back to playing together as a fist. I hope you all could see the unselfishness of our team tonight.”

Her eight assists: “I knew there were mismatches, and if you get some of the people on our team the ball, they’re going to do something good with it. My role on this team is to be that role player and help those girls out.”

Lady Tops host Troy after back-to-back losses

We met today with Western Kentucky women’s basketball coach Michelle Clark-Heard, as the Lady Tops (15-5, 8-3 Sun Belt Conference) host Troy at 7 p.m. Wednesday.

Here are coach Heard’s comments:

MICHELLE CLARK-HEARD, coach

Coming back home: “I’m really excited to get back home. We’ve all wanted to get back on the court after our game Sunday, because it’s an opportunity to get back out there and change and work on some of the things you didn’t do as well as you should’ve.”

On Troy: “I know a lot of people are going to look at their record and see 0-10 in the conference, but if you look at their stats, they’ve been in every single game they’ve played. When teams can score the way they can, they’re really scary.”

Troy struggling in conference: “I don’t really know what it is and why they haven’t won a game, but I am surprised. But I don’t want them to get their first win against us.”

Bouncing back from two losses: “We had a great practice (Monday), and we have to move forward each day. We learned from the mistakes that we did from the Middle game and South Alabama game. Any coach, that’s the way you’re supposed to think. As soon as the game is over, we evaluate and correct the things we need to.”

Why Troy scores so much: “They can run five in at a time. That’s what they did against us. The players that hurt us, they’re still playing a lot of minutes. They push the ball no matter what. When you score, they push the ball up and take quick shots. They have an all-around balanced attack, shooting it and putting it on the floor.”

Enjoying this season: “Every day, I wake up and I’m grateful for this opportunity. I look around the country, and I have a lot of friends who coach in this business. I know sometimes, this doesn’t happen.”

Importance of winning at home: “We’re very fortunate that we get to be on television, and the coverage now that you all do with us. Social media is amazing with Twitter and being able to follow, but it’s amazing for people to come out and get excited and see it in action – not just hear about it or read about it in the paper. Diddle Arena has always been such an amazing place to play, and now it’s an amazing place to coach.”

WKU, MTSU react to Lady Tops’ 79-57 loss in Murfreesboro

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – The Western Kentucky women’s basketball team turned a 16-point, first-half deficit into a one-possession game in the second half Sunday, but Middle Tennessee got a career-high 28 points for Kortni Jones and pulled away for a 79-57 win at the Murphy Center.

Jones, a senior guard, netted nine free throws, recorded five steals and hit three second-half 3-pointers as MTSU (15-5, 10-1 Sun Belt Conference) logged its 11th straight win over WKU.

The Lady Toppers (15-5, 8-3), who haven’t won in Murfreesboro since 2004, suffered their first back-to-back losses since the end of the 2011-12 regular season.

MTSU senior forward Icelyn Elie added 22 points and eight rebonds, while junior forward Ebony Rowe had 13 points and 12 rebounds for her 45th career double-double.

Sophomore guard Alexis Govan paced WKU with 26 points, while sophomore forward Chastity Gooch recorded her nation-leading 17th double-double this season with 20 points and 14 rebounds.

WKU hosts Troy at 7 p.m. Wednesday.

Here are comments from WKU’s Michelle Clark-Heard, Alexis Govan and Chastity Gooch, along with MTSU’s Rick Insell, Kortni Jones and Icelyn Elie:

MICHELLE CLARK-HEARD, coach

MTSU’s second-half run: “I was proud of our kids. We came out in the second half, and we fought. We put ourselves in a position where we were in the game. The problem became that they shoot the 3 well. Kortni Jones got her wide-open shot, and after that, she got on a roll.”

Cutting deficit to three: “We were right there in the ball game. To have that opportunity, we’ve got to continue to do the things we need to get better and close out a game like that.”

Jones’ 3-pointers: “That was a huge back-breaker. I’ve watched Kortni for years, and I knew her even when I was at the University of Louisville. She’s a big-time player. Big-time players step up and make big shots, and that’s what she did.”

Players beyond Gooch and Govan: “The problem was that we had those two show up, and we didn’t have anyone else show up. … Two people are not going to be able to carry you.”

“I’m not going to say everybody’s going to get 15 points, but we have to have role players. We need everyone to add to what we’re trying to do.”

ALEXIS GOVAN, sophomore guard

MTSU’s second-half run: “We just needed to sit down and guard. We didn’t guard the 3-point line very well after we made that run. We sort of let up on defense, and we weren’t able to fight back after that.”

On Kortni Jones: “She can flat-out shoot the ball. Us as a team, we have to be more aware of it. The coaches stressed it to us, and I don’t think we took it as seriously as we should have.”

Pressure with others not stepping up? “I don’t think we feel pressure. We know our teammates have our backs. We have a lot of good players that are going to show up at big times, but it just so happened that tonight it wasn’t anyone’s night.”

CHASTITY GOOCH, sophomore forward

Rebounding: “Coach told us that they were a really good rebounding team. We knew that we had to box out and get rebounds, and we tried, but it just didn’t happen.”

RICK INSELL, MTSU coach

“Western gave us two or three shots, but we were able to get ourselves under control and push the game back out. We executed our offense, hit our free throws – did everything we need to do.”

On Kortni Jones: “She gave us the leadership on the perimeter we needed today. … We she comes to play, she’s pretty tough. She ran our basketball team.”

On WKU: “They’re going to be a team you’re going to have to contend with because they’ve got two great scorers in Gooch and Govan. If you’ve got two scorers and personnel around them, they’ve got a good basketball team. … They’re going to be in the mix.”

KORTNI JONES, MTSU guard

“Coach Insell always says 3-pointers are back-breakers, especially when they’re kind of on a run and getting a little hope, and you knock a few 3s down.”

“Western’s a really good team, and they play hard for 40 minutes. The run didn’t really surprise us, but it was just a matter of getting our focus back on defense. Offense is going to come.”

Pride of having not lost to WKU: “I actually got a text from Alysha Clark this morning, and it said, ‘We haven’t lost to Western at home, so it better not start today.’ When you get a text from someone as good as her, and knowing I played with her and how hyped and serious they were about beating Western Kentucky, you know your focus better be there, or you’re going to hear it from every single player that’s come before you.”

ICELYN ELIE, MTSU forward

Playing better recently: “I don’t think we had very much confidence then. We’ve pulled together and played as a team, and I think that’s the thing that’s pushed us along the way.”

MTSU coach Rick Insell previews game against Lady Toppers

I had a good talk this afternoon with Middle Tennessee women’s basketball coach Rick Insell, who – along with his Lady Raiders – host Western Kentucky at 2 p.m. Sunday.

Insell talked about MTSU’s recent surge, the play of WKU – which included some high praise for Michelle Clark-Heard – and the move to Conference USA.

RICK INSELL, Middle Tennessee coach

Take me through your season, and your current eight-game win streak: “We’re playing better now. We came into that early nonconference schedule, and we probably overdid it, to be honest with you. … We were kind of like a wounded animal. We just didn’t know where to go or what to do, and then we come right into the conference, and Florida International came in and beat us, and there we were, kind of reeling. At that point, we started getting more focused in practice, and since then we’ve been playing pretty good basketball. I don’t think we’ve played our best ball yet, but we’ve been pretty steady.”

Play of Ebony Rowe: “She’s been a horse and has just carried us. She’s who we’ve been leaning on all through this whole thing. I’ve had a lot of players bring their ‘A’ game every day in practice, and she’s one of them. I mean, God. It’s like we’re playing for a national championship that day. You don’t get many of those.”

Michelle Clark-Heard: “She’s done an outstanding job, and I mean outstanding. She brought in a totally different system than Mary Taylor had, and she’s plugged those players into that system. I can’t see how the people in Bowling Green aren’t excited about what’s happened there.”

More on Heard: “Her players have gravitated toward her leadership, and who would’ve thought that Govan and Gooch would improve so much? They went to Little Rock and won and beat Florida International, and it has to start with Michelle. The energy that she brought in there, her kids have gravitated toward that. She’s got some of the players that were there last year.”

What do you have to do against WKU? “We have to stop them in transition. They’re scoring a lot of points against good teams. When you score 80 points against, Little Rock – how many teams have done that in the last four years?”

Heard’s recruiting: “I see her out on the recruiting trail. She’s a tireless worker. She’s out there just as much as my coaches and myself, if not more.”

Move to C-USA, in terms of WKU: “As far as Western Kentucky is concerned, I’m hoping we can keep Western involved with our schedule. I haven’t talked to Michelle about it. I think the two ADs have gotten together about it, and I think Kermit has talked to Ray. But Michelle and I have had our wagon loaded just trying to keep our teams afloat. We’re not concerned with scheduling just yet.”

Heard, Means preview rivalry game at Middle Tennessee

We just got back from meeting with Western Kentucky women’s basketball coach Michelle Clark-Heard and junior guard Chaney Means ahead of WKU’s game Sunday at Middle Tennessee.

Heard and Means talked about Wednesday’s loss at South Alabama, the rivalry with MTSU and the Lady Tops’ desire to pick up the conference torch from the Lady Raiders as the latter leaves for Conference USA.

MICHELLE CLARK-HEARD, coach

What ultimately cost you all at South Alabama? “Turnovers. It was something that came back to bite us again. We did really, really good in the Little Rock game. We only had 10 turnovers, and we turned around and turn it over 23 times. You look at the stats of the game, and free-throw wise, we didn’t go the line the way we normally do because we were turning it over. We dug ourselves a hole in the first half, but I was proud of our kids’ effort. We got it to a five-point game and then had two turnovers back-to-back.”

Big opportunity at MTSU? “Every day and every game,  we’re treating the same way. We have to get better as a group. We have to go back to playing our style of basketball. That’s what we’re working on in practice.”

Chance to tie standings again Sunday? “Goal-wise, being able to compete is the biggest thing. I’ll go back to that again. … Our goal is to play our basketball and play it for 40 minutes.”

Do you put any extra emphasis on a rivalry game? “When you play at this level and in this conference, you understand there’s no extra emphasis on anything. The extra emphasis for us has been taking care of the basketball. It doesn’t make a difference what name is on that jersey. It’s every day for us.”

What have you seen from MTSU? “When you look at the stats, you’ve got three of the top 10 players in scoring. That’s a big deal right there. He does an unbelievable job. They play hard. They’ll press us, they like to shoot the 3, but ultimately, Ebony Rowe is averaging a double-double, too. They’ll get it to her, and Jones can shoot it from deep, so they have a lot of different pieces to the puzzle.”

More on MTSU: “They’re playing well now, and they played against good competition. They always have. Every team they have, they play against competition. They’ll be ready to play, just like they are every night.”

Respect for program, MTSU coach Rick Insell? “Rick has been around for a long time. I remember when he was in high school. He’s had respect, and he’s done an unbelievable job with that program. … When people come in and make a statement and do the things he’s done – he’s beat some really good teams.”

Is MTSU the best team you’ve played this year? “Everybody has different individuals that can do different things. As far as the toughest team that we’ve faced this year, I don’t know if I can say that. We played against Vanderbilt, and they’re a great team. For our conference, this is a big game for us, just like every game is.”

CHANEY MEANS, junior guard

South Al loss: “We would get some good defensive stops, and then end up having an unforced turnover. I think that was one of our biggest problems there.”

What would a good showing at MTSU do for confidence? “I think it’ll just give us confidence that we can play with anybody. Middle Tennessee has always been that team that everybody in the conference looks to beat, and if they can, they have a good shot of going far in the Sun Belt tournament.”

Last year’s 67-64 loss at MTSU: “We had a great shot at winning. We should have won that game. Just a couple of mental errors were what kept us from winning that. That still kind of leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.”

On Lady Raiders: “They’re experienced, and they’ve been there. They’ve played together for a long time now, and that’s something we’re working on. They have a lot of weapons, and we’ll have to do our best to sit down on defense and make sure no one has a really good night.”

Do Lady Tops want success MTSU has now? “That’s definitely what (Heard) wants. She wants us to be top of the Sun Belt and have that respect that Middle Tennessee has from all the teams in our conference. She challenges us every day to gain that respect from the conference, that we’re the ones to beat – that we need to be the headline and the top dog of the conference.”

Is this the main rivalry for you all? “For every sport, Middle Tennessee is a big game. Every game’s big in conference, but they’re our closest competitor in the conference. It’s a fun game to go play, and everybody tries to bring their best game for that one.”

Louisville joins list recruiting Glasgow freshman Breanna Glover

Glasgow freshman forward Breanna Glover (left) has drawn interest from several schools, including Western Kentucky, Louisville and Kentucky. (Photo by Nathan Morgan/Daily News)

Glasgow freshman forward Breanna Glover (left) has drawn interest from several schools, including Western Kentucky, Louisville and Kentucky. (Photo by Nathan Morgan/Daily News)

The University of Louisville has joined the list of schools recruiting Glasgow freshman Breanna Glover, coach Justin Stinson said Thursday.

Glover, a 5-foot-11-inch forward, is averaging 11.5 points, 8.5 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 3.7 blocks per game for the Lady Scotties (14-4) . She’s shooting 59 percent from the field.

Glover is garnering the most interest from Kentucky, Dayton, Arkansas, Marquette, Stanford, Florida, Western Kentucky, Wake Forest, Morehead State, Middle Tennessee and Eastern Illinois, Stinson said.

She recently joined the Kentucky Premier AAU program.

“She’s so long, and she plays bigger than her size,” Stinson said. “She handles the ball. You can see how much we ask her to handle it. She takes care of the ball and passes it like a guard.”

Glasgow junior Shalika Smith is averaging 13.4 points and 7.4 rebounds, while shooting 67 percent from the field.

The 6-1 center has been recruited by Morehead State, Southeast Missouri State, Troy and Georgetown College, Stinson said, and most recently Division-II Eckerd College.

Michelle Clark-Heard previews road game at South Alabama

We met briefly today with Western Kentucky women’s basketball coach Michelle Clark-Heard before the Lady Tops take off for Wednesday’s 7 p.m. road game at South Alabama.

Here are a few thoughts from Heard:

MICHELLE CLARK-HEARD, coach

What have you seen from South Alabama? “They shoot a lot of 3s. We’re going to have to be able to guard. At first, during the season, we did that really well, but we’ve struggled some lately. They’ve got some kids that can shoot it and shoot it from deep. They’re a senior-oriented team, but we’ll have to go on the road and take care of the ball and guard.”

What do they do defensively? “They press some, and they cause a lot of havoc. Their pressure sometimes will get to you.”

Do you feel the need to keep team’s focus on South Al and not Sunday’s game at MTSU? “(Losing at) Arkansas State was a big deal for us. I think we had an eye-opener. I haven’t even mentioned Middle. I know they know the schedule, but we’ve got business to take care of with South Al. Our biggest goal is to get another win and get to 9-1, and when we get on the plane to come back, we’ll be ready to discuss Middle. They already know the stakes. I’m fortunate that I’ve got a young group, but they’re very grounded.”

How are Govan, Gooch and McGee co-existing so well? “It goes back to chemistry. They’re very, very close off the floor. They cut up and have fun, and I think that says a lot when they get on the floor. They don’t take anything personally. If one of them gets on the other or they tell them they made a bad pass or aren’t going hard, they just decide they need to pick it up.”

Improvement on free throws: “We put a huge emphasis on it when we got here. It was the first thing we talked about. In order to win games, you’re going to have to make free throws.”

Infamous free-throw drill in practice, which involves running for misses: “It’s a pressure situation, just like it is in a game.”

Did you feel that it had to get better? “You see that we were second to the bottom. I’m not saying there wasn’t focus on it, but sometimes you have to give more attention to certain details. That was one we picked out because of how important it is. With our size and numbers, when we go to the free-throw line, we have to make them.”

What still needs improvement? “This is a defensive-oriented team. I want it to be. I want us to get better at playing just straight man-to-man. A lot of times, we’ve switched up defenses, so that and rebounding, and I think we’re getting better.”