Lady Toppers preview Sun Belt Conference Tournament

We met with the WKU Lady Toppers today to preview the Sun Belt Conference Tournament, which begins Friday in Hot Springs, Ark.

The Lady Tops have a bye through the first round and will play either North Texas or Louisiana-Lafayette at 2 p.m. Saturday.

Also stayed tuned Wednesday for the Sun Belt’s all-conference teams and individual awards, which will be released in the morning.

Here are comments from coach Michelle Clark-Heard and sophomores Alexis Govan and Chastity Gooch:

MICHELLE CLARK-HEARD, coach

Preparation this week: “I want to make sure we focus on a lot of us. We need to correct some things, and I think the biggest thing is I want the kids to be excited. Excited for the opportunity, excited to have the opportunity to be in Hot Springs and watch our guys play on the first day and us not play.”

Entering on two-game losing streak: “We’ve been in a situation where we lost a couple before, and we came back and found a way to win. That’s what it’s about. What we’re trying to do is focus on the things we’re really good and make people figure out how they’re going to stop us, too.”

Balancing expectations with enjoying turnaround: “It’s hard, especially with a young group. I try to always put them in a position to look back and see where we’ve been. The way I try to break things up is one game at a time. How many times have we won three games in a row? If you look at our schedule, it’s been four times. I want them to understand this is very much so doable.”

Preparing for two teams: “When it comes tournament time, you’ve got to be ready to play. Survive and advance, that’s what it’s all about. Any time you get in the conference tournament, you just have to match up and figure it out. It’s going to come down to defense, rebounding and taking care of the basketball.”

Tournament draw: “I think we definitely got a great draw. I look at the work we did in the beginning to put ourselves in that position. Every team gets better and better, so I believe we’re happy with the draw, but I also believe all season, we were top two, top three in the conference. The luck of the draw was good for us, but this young team also put itself in a position to get to this point.”

WKU administrators expecting fast success: “I know they want to win. I think anytime someone steps into a head coaching job, there’s pressure. I didn’t look at it that way. I just looked at it as a challenge. I knew I had to get a great staff so that we could put some things in place, but I never imagined that I’d be sitting here today with us 20-9 and third seed in the conference.”

On Lafayette: “Lafayette has really guards that are good and have a couple kids that can shoot it. We were able to jump on them early and we tried to take the shooters out of the picture. We don’t want people to hurt us behind the arc. They love to push the ball in transition, so we’ll have to be on our ‘A’ game.”

On North Texas: “North Texas, they’ll press and use a zone. We’re going to have to make shots. Bianca McGee stepped up huge at North Texas and hit a bunch of 3s, and that was able to open up Chastity and Alexis. Everybody played a significant role in both of those games.”

ALEXIS GOVAN, sophomore guard

On getting the third seed: “We were pretty excited. Our side is one that we’re a little more confident about. We’re just going to prepare like we always do and go in there one game at a time.”

On tournament draw: “It’s pretty nice, I’m not going to lie. I’m glad we don’t have to start out battling with those teams.”

Sweeping North Texas: “I think that last trip to North Texas was one of the best games we played. We got a little confidence against them. We passed the ball really well, and that was a good team game. Our confidence is pretty high with them, but we know it’s going to be a battle if it’s them.”

On her and Gooch being sophomores: “We don’t think about it. Right now, we’re just playing. But some days we’ve got to take a step back and we’re like, ‘We’re only sophomores.’ But we’re living in the moment right now. We’re playing like this is our senior year and we only have right now.”

On job Heard has done: “She told us from the start that people didn’t think they were going to see anything until next year. That’s not what she wanted. She wanted to show she could come in and change the program with what she already had. She’s a phenomenal coach.”

CHASTITY GOOCH, sophomore forward

Getting third seed after being picked fifth in East Division in preseason: “I feel like we shut up a lot of people. We made a whole turnaround.”

Preparation right now: “We just have kind of light practices. Coach was talking about practice not being as hard, not going up and down the court as much. We’re trying to rest and stayed focused.”

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