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.”

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