Heard previews first-round WNIT game against East Carolina

WKU coach Michelle Clark-Heard met with the media today to preview Thursday’s home game in the first round of the WNIT against East Carolina at 7 p.m. at E.A. Diddle Arena.

Here are her thoughts on getting a postseason bid, having the chance to host and ECU:

MICHELLE CLARK-HEARD

Getting a postseason bid: “When the whole bracket came out, and you saw the opportunity with all the different teams that are in the tournament, it’s a real big deal for us. The biggest thing for us is to be able to play again in the postseason, which Western Kentucky hasn’t had that for the past two years.”

Telling players: “It’s not like the selection show. They weren’t sitting around. They had to wait for my phone call or my text. Making the phone calls to them was a big deal for me, because we talked about having the possibility – even when we lost in the Sun Belt tournament – that we could still be playing.”

What you get out of extra games: “What we’re trying to look at is tournament time. That’s why we’re really excited as a staff. … The experience for this team would be the greatest thing in tournament time – understanding and knowing it’s one and done.”

Players getting validation for buying in: “I was probably the most nervous out of everybody because I’ve talked to them a lot about that. I really wanted this to happen for them because of that.”

Having the chance to host: “I looked at the bracket and where people had to go, and we’re very fortunate. I hope our fans and everybody understands that it’s going to be really important that we have a good showing – that people come out and support us. They deserve it. They’ve worked really hard to get us to this spot.”

Trying to quickly prep: “Thank goodness for my staff and (director of operations) Laura Terry and the film people, trying to get us together. We really just learned what kind of basketball team they are.”

On East Carolina: “We’re going to have to guard. They’re athletic. We’ve been watching film and trying to put a game plan together. They’ve shot over 600 3s, to give you an indication. We’ll have the opportunity to do a lot of different things.”

More on ECU: “We’re going to have our work cut out for us, but on the other hand, they’re looking to figure out how they’re going to guard Govan and Gooch and the rest of our team.”

Lady Toppers earn at-large bid to WNIT

The Western Kentucky women’s basketball team’s season isn’t done just yet.

The Lady Toppers (21-10) earned a bid Monday to the Women’s National Invitation Tournament and will host East Carolina on Thursday in the first round at E.A. Diddle Arena.

The time of the game will be determined Tuesday.

WKU was one of 33 at-large selections to the WNIT’s 64-team field.

Arkansas-Little Rock, which eliminated the Lady Tops from the Sun Belt Conference Tournament and lost to Middle Tennessee in the championship, earned the league’s automatic bid.

This is WKU’s 10th appearance in the WNIT and the program’s 26th postseason berth in the last 30 seasons.

The Lady Tops failed to reach the postseason in each of the last two seasons. Their last appearance was a trip to the WNIT in 2010, when they lost at home to Illinois in the first round.

WKU has won 21 games this season after finishing 9-21 in 2011-12.
East Carolina is 22-9 this year and lost to Tulsa in the semifinals of the Conference USA Tournament.

The Lady Toppers would face Auburn or Alabama-Birmingham in the second round.

Florida International also made the WNIT field as an at-large pick from the Sun Belt.

MTSU will represent the Sun Belt in the NCAA tournament as a No. 12 seed in the Oklahoma City region against fifth-seeded Louisville.

Tickets for WKU’s opening-round WNIT game at Diddle Arena will be available starting at 8 a.m. Tuesday in the WKU Ticket Office. The ticket office is open daily from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Tickets are $12 for reserved seating, $6 for youth (ages 3 through 12) and $6 for WKU students with a valid student ID. Tickets can be purchased through the WKU Ticket Office by calling 270-745-5222 or 1-800-5-BIG-RED, or online at http://www.wkusports.com.

Parking will be regulated in the same way as regular-season games. Passes for season-ticket holders will be honored for WNIT parking.

Best of the Rest: RPI ratings for remaining women’s teams after NCAA tournament selection

The women’s NCAA tournament selection show is complete, and now we wait for the announcement of the Women’s NIT field tonight, which should happen between 10-11 p.m. CDT.

Here is a look at the RPI ratings for the top teams that did not make the NCAA field. The WNIT has announced 29 of its 31 automatic bids so far, which I’ve bolded. There will be 33 at-large teams selected.

I’ve also deleted Rutgers, Ohio State and Virginia, which have reportedly already announced they would decline a WNIT bid. I’ll update the automatic bids as they are announced.

WKU currently sits at 101 in the RPI.

36    36    Duquesne    Atlantic 10    23-7    10-4    1- 1    12-2    0-0
45    43    San Diego State    Mountain West    26-6    10-3    3- 1    11-2    2-0
46    42    Toledo    Mid-American    27-3    12-1    2- 1    13-1    0-0
47    40    Pacific    Big West    25-7    11-4    1- 1    13-2    0-0
49    49    St. Mary’s (Calif.)    West Coast    20-10    8-6    2- 2    10-2    0-0
52    51    FGCU    Atlantic Sun    27-6    11-2    3- 3    12-1    1-0
53    53    Charlotte    Atlantic 10    24-5    11-0    1- 2    12-3    0-0
57    56    Boston U.    America East    23-5    11-3    1- 0    11-2    0-0
62    59    Kansas State    Big 12    15-17    6-8    1- 3    8-6    0-0
65    64    UALR    Sun Belt    24-8    10-3    2- 1    12-4    0-0
66    74    Illinois State    Missouri Valley    23-10    9-5    2- 1    12-4    0-0
67    61    San Diego    West Coast    21-9    7-4    2- 1    10-4    2-0
68    66    Marquette    Big East    16-15    7-6    2- 1    7-8    0-0
69    55    SMU    Conference USA    21-9    5-5    1- 1    15-3    0-0
70    62    Fordham    Atlantic 10    24-8    10-4    2- 1    12-3    0-0
71    67    James Madison    Colonial    22-10    8-3    3- 2    11-5    0-0
72    73    Florida    Southeastern    18-14    4-7    3- 2    11-5    0-0
73    72    BYU    West Coast    21-10    7-7    1- 2    12-1    1-0
74    70    Wyoming    Mountain West    24-7    9-5    2- 1    12-1    1-0
77    75    Georgetown    Big East    15-16    5-9    2- 1    8-6    0-0
78    81    Arkansas    Southeastern    19-12    7-5    1- 2    11-5    0-0
80    79    Illinois    Big Ten    16-13    6-4    1- 2    9-7    0-0
81    71    Youngstown State    Horizon    22-9    9-7    0- 1    12-1    1-0
82    76    East Carolina    Conference USA    22-9    6-6    2- 2    12-1    2-0
83    87    Drexel    Colonial    22-10    9-5    5- 1    8-4    0-0
84    82    Minnesota    Big Ten    18-13    3-6    2- 2    13-5    0-0
86    84    Washington    Pac-12    20-11    9-6    1- 1    10-4    0-0
87    78    Tulane    Conference USA    22-8    9-2    2- 1    10-5    1-0
88    88    Davidson    Southern    21-12    9-8    3- 2    9-2    0-0
90    83    Harvard    Ivy    20-8    9-6    0- 2    11-0    0-0
91    85    UTEP    Conference USA    22-10    4-6    4- 1    13-3    1-0
92    97    Northern Colorado    Big Sky    20-12    6-11    2- 0    11-1    1-0
95    92    Auburn    Southeastern    16-14    2-9    2- 2    12-3    0-0
96    93    Eastern Washington    Big Sky    19-12    7-8    2- 1    9-3    1-0
97    95    Missouri    Southeastern    17-14    2-7    1- 3    14-4    0-0
98    98    Hartford    America East    21-11    7-7    3- 0    11-4    0-0
99    94    Georgia Tech    Atlantic Coast    14-16    5-6    2- 2    7-8    0-0
101    96    Western Kentucky    Sun Belt    21-10    10-4    2- 1    9-5    0-0
103    102    Richmond    Atlantic 10    16-15    5-8    2- 2    9-5    0-0
104    104    Northwestern    Big Ten    13-17    4-8    1- 1    8-8    0-0
105    105    Utah    Pac-12    18-13    6-6    1- 1    11-6    0-0
107    130    Saint Francis (Pa.)    Northeast    17-15    7-11    0- 1    10-3    0-0
108    106    Bowling Green    Mid-American    22-10    9-4    1- 2    11-4    1-0
109    107    Southern California    Pac-12    11-20    5-7    1- 1    5-12    0-0
110    142    Howard    Mid-Eastern    20-11    9-7    2- 1    8-3    1-0
111    112    Sam Houston State    Southland    18-14    6-10    3- 2    8-2    1-0
112    109    North Carolina State    Atlantic Coast    16-16    4-7    2- 3    10-6    0-0
113    113    Akron    Mid-American    23-9    10-5    2- 1    10-3    1-0
114    110    FIU    Sun Belt    19-12    8-4    1- 1    10-7    0-0
115    124    Sacramento State    Big Sky    19-12    7-10    1- 0    11-2    0-0
116    115    Appalachian State    Southern    20-10    8-6    3- 1    8-3    1-0
117    101    Sacred Heart    Northeast    22-10    7-7    2- 0    13-3    0-0
118    132    Detroit    Horizon    17-13    5-10    0- 2    10-1    2-0
119    129    Seattle    Western Athletic    20-10    6-6    2- 1    12-3    0-0
120    151    UCF    Conference USA    16-18    5-7    4- 4    7-7    0-0
121    121    Boston College    Atlantic Coast    12-19    3-9    2- 2    7-8    0-0
122    118    Temple    Atlantic 10    14-18    4-12    2- 1    8-5    0-0
123    117    Butler    Atlantic 10    17-13    8-7    0- 2    9-4    0-0
124    123    Wisconsin    Big Ten    12-19    1-12    2- 1    9-6    0-0
125    127    Texas    Big 12    12-18    1-8    2- 4    9-6    0-0
126    125    Iona    Metro Atlantic    20-12    9-8    2- 1    9-3    0-0
127    119    UAB    Conference USA    18-12    6-6    2- 1    10-5    0-0
128    114    Memphis    Conference USA    17-14    6-8    0- 1    11-5    0-0
129    144    UNI    Missouri Valley    16-16    7-6    2- 3    7-7    0-0
130    111    Rice    Conference USA    14-16    2-11    0- 1    12-4    0-0
132    116    Idaho State    Big Sky    18-12    8-8    0- 1    9-3    1-0
133    133    American    Patriot    15-14    7-9    0- 0    8-5    0-0
134    134    Elon    Southern    18-13    5-10    1- 1    12-2    0-0
135    135    Old Dominion    Colonial    19-11    6-6    1- 1    12-4    0-0
136    131    Eastern Illinois    OVC    19-11    6-8    1- 1    11-2    1-0
137    139    Lamar    Southland    21-10    9-6    1- 1    7-3    4-0
138    120    N.C. A&T    Mid-Eastern    22-9    9-6    1- 1    11-2    1-0
139    141    Utah State    Western Athletic    18-13    5-10    2- 1    10-2    1-0
140    158    Hofstra    Colonial    14-17    3-10    2- 2    9-5    0-0
141    143    High Point    Big South    17-13    8-8    1- 1    7-4    1-0
142    147    Presbyterian    Big South    19-11    10-6    0- 2    7-3    2-0
143    145    Winthrop    Big South    20-11    10-6    1- 3    8-2    1-0
144    149    Virginia Tech    Atlantic Coast    10-20    2-9    0- 1    8-10    0-0
145    140    Cal State Northridge    Big West    16-16    5-11    1- 1    10-4    0-0
146    126    Indiana State    Missouri Valley    18-12    7-7    0- 1    11-4    0-0
147    146    Holy Cross    Patriot    18-14    9-8    0- 0    9-6    0-0
148    122    Hawaii    Big West    17-13    5-5    0- 1    12-7    0-0
149    150    Mercer    Atlantic Sun    20-11    9-6    0- 0    10-5    1-0
150    138    Montana State    Big Sky    17-13    9-5    1- 1    6-6    1-1
151    128    IUPUI    Summit    20-11    6-7    1- 1    11-3    2-0
152    153    Washington State    Pac-12    11-20    4-11    1- 2    6-7    0-0
153    165    McNeese State    Southland    18-14    5-10    3- 1    8-3    2-0
154    152    George Washington    Atlantic 10    14-16    4-11    1- 1    9-4    0-0
155    162    UC Santa Barbara    Big West    16-16    8-5    2- 3    6-8    0-0
156    148    Nicholls State    Southland    19-11    7-8    3- 1    9-2    0-0
157    154    Army    Patriot    22-8    11-4    0- 0    10-4    1-0
158    157    Campbell    Big South    20-11    7-6    3- 2    8-3    2-0
159    137    South Carolina State    Mid-Eastern    20-9    8-6    1- 1    9-2    2-0
160    164    Arizona State    Pac-12    13-18    4-8    2- 2    7-8    0-0
161    161    Santa Clara    West Coast    14-16    6-7    1- 2    7-7    0-0
162    163    Arkansas State    Sun Belt    15-15    5-9    0- 1    10-5    0-0
163    169    Wake Forest    Atlantic Coast    13-19    3-8    1- 4    9-7    0-0
164    166    Yale    Ivy    13-15    7-8    0- 0    6-7    0-0
165    156    Northeastern    Colonial    17-13    6-8    0- 2    11-3    0-0
166    168    Tennessee Tech    OVC    19-12    8-5    1- 2    9-5    1-0
167    172    South Alabama    Sun Belt    17-13    6-8    1- 1    9-4    1-0
168    171    Northern Kentucky Independent   15-12    6-9    0- 0    9-3    0-0
169    159    Missouri State    Miss. Valley    14-17    3-10    2- 2    9-5    0-0
169    170    Bradley    Missouri Valley    14-16    6-9    0- 2    8-5    0-0
171    155    Long Beach State    Big West    16-15    4-9    0- 1    12-5    0-0
172    175    Loyola Marymount   West Coast    13-18    2-11    2- 2    9-5    0-0
173    173    Col. of Charleston    Southern    15-15    8-8    0- 1    7-6    0-0
174    160    Miami (Ohio)    Mid-American    19-12    8-5    1- 2    10-5    0-0
175    176    Alabama    Southeastern    13-18    4-8    3- 1    6-9    0-0
176    180    Southern Mississippi    C-USA    15-16    5-9    1- 1    7-6    2-0
177    174    Arizona    Pac-12    12-18    6-8    1- 2    5-8    0-0
178    194    Loyola Chicago    Horizon    17-15    7-9    1- 0    9-6    0-0
179    177    Texas Southern    Southwestern    20-11    10-6    1- 3    9-2    0-0
180    179    Ball State    Mid-American    15-15    6-9    0- 1    9-5    0-0
181    181    Cincinnati    Big East    12-18    2-10    1- 2    9-6    0-0
182    193    South Dakota    Summit    17-15    5-10    3- 1    7-4    2-0
183    191    New Mexico    Mountain West    17-14    6-7    0- 1    11-6    0-0
184    178    Houston    Conference USA    13-17    3-10    0- 1    10-6    0-0
185    190    Louisiana Tech    WAC   14-17    4-10    1- 2    9-5    0-0
186    185    Bucknell    Patriot    15-16    7-10    0- 0    8-6    0-0
187    182    Eastern Kentucky    OVC    18-11    4-7    1- 3    12-1    1-0
188    184    TCU    Big 12    9-21    0-11    0- 1    9-9    0-0
189    183    SIU Edwardsville    OVC    16-15    5-9    3- 1    8-5    0-0
190    187    Penn    Ivy    16-12    6-6    2- 0    8-6    0-0
191    186    Indiana    Big Ten    11-19    2-10    0- 1    9-8    0-0
192    192    Oregon State    Pac-12    10-21    2-8    2- 4    4-9    2-0
193    189    Fairfield    Metro Atlantic    17-13    6-8    1- 1    10-4    0-0
194    188    Belmont    OVC    18-13    7-9    1- 1    10-3    0-0
196    199    Mississippi State    SEC    13-17    1-8    0- 4    12-5    0-0
197    201    Rider    Metro Atlantic    15-15    9-6    0- 2    6-7    0-0
198    196    Clemson    Atlantic Coast    9-21    3-8    1- 3    5-10    0-0
199    197    Seton Hall    Big East    11-20    1-10    1- 3    9-7    0-0
200    200    Monmouth    Northeast    15-15    6-8    0- 2    9-5    0-0

Michelle Clark-Heard talks WNIT, recruiting, Girls’ Sweet 16

I sat down with Western Kentucky women’s basketball coach Michelle Clark-Heard today, two days after her Lady Toppers fell 74-54 to Arkansas-Little Rock in the semifinals of the Sun Belt Conference Tournament.

WKU is playing the waiting game for now. It’ll find out whether or not it’ll earn a bit to the WNIT tournament Monday, when the field is released late that night after the NCAA tournament selection process.

Heard talked about the WNIT, preparation for this week and the KHSAA Girls’ Sweet 16, which begins Wednesday at E.A. Diddle Arena.

MICHELLE CLARK-HEARD

Do you think you all will be in the WNIT? “I feel like with the product that we put together this season, I think we should have a for-sure shot to get in. But I’m not on the committee. I can’t say that for sure. I don’t know how other things may fall with other people losing in their conference, but I hope it happens for us. We’re going to continue to think that way.”

What would the players take away from a WNIT berth? “The postseason is about having another season, but also preparing for the future. That’s what it would be for us, to be able to practice some more and get some more games under our belt.”

You talked a lot Sunday about UALR being ‘bigger, faster and stronger.’ Is that something you think your team needs to become? “This league is very athletic, and a lot of people don’t realize that. Very guard-oriented league, with guards that can put it on the floor and guards that can shoot it. When I got here, the first thing everybody told me was that Little Rock is the best defensive team in the league. I knew that, and I saw their rotation and how they guard. But the biggest thing for them is their guards’ ability to utilize their strength.”

What do you have in your signing class, and what skills do you still need? “We needed size. But we’re going to have to address that and keep getting more athletic, especially on the perimeter.”

Do you plan to fill your vacant scholarship this spring? “I have one left, and I’m looking to possibly get a JUCO kid. We’re in the mix for a couple kids, and I feel really strong with one of them. If so, I think that’ll add to what we’re talking about – defensively and giving the other team someone else they’d have to key on.”

What’s the plan for this week? “We played a lot of basketball with a limited number of players. We’re fortunate this is spring break for the university, so I’m letting our kids off until Friday. On Saturday, we’ll get back in here and go to work. With the way it works out, you could play Wednesday in the NIT, and I think that gives us plenty of time and preparation. Mentally, our kids need that break right now.”

(After confirming she and her staff will be at Girls’ Sweet 16): Talk about the opportunity of having the state tournament in your own building: “My whole career, I’ve always come to this tournament, no matter where I’ve been. To be right here now, and to build the brand for what we’re working toward is awesome. I’ll be able to talk to a lot of high school coaches. It’s huge for us to have all that right here.”

You’re likely to get some attention after leading such a big turnaround. Do you have a comment on that? “I’m happy here and I want to be here. I’m not even thinking about anything like that. I’ve said before this is my dream job. I think we can win big here. The sky is the limit for this program. The potential is there, because we’ve done it before.”

Postgame: Warren Central falls to Montgomery County in state tournament

Just wanted to provide a few snippets of the postgame interviews from both sides following Warren Central’s 71-63 loss to Montgomery County today in the Boys’ Sweet 16 tournament at Rupp Arena in Lexington.

WILLIAM UNSELD, Warren Central coach

Opening thoughts: “It was a tough one. It was a game of runs, and they made that last run. It took a lot of energy to get back in the game, and they made that run. We just couldn’t get over the hump in the end.”

Montgomery’s Omar Prewitt, who scored 29 points: “He made some tough shots. He made some contested shots. He’s 12 for 24. We did a good job for the most part, but he made some big ones. We lost him a couple times in transition, but a kid that good is going to make some shots.”

Missing several outside shots: “We got the shots we wanted. Walker goes 1 for 7 from 3, and he hasn’t done that all year, really. … If we replay it again, we’re taking those shots because that’s what we did all year.”

Young players: “Their seniors played really well. I had three juniors play really well. I’m looking forward to making another run at it next year with these three.”

HAPPY OSBORNE, Montgomery County coach

On Warren Central: “My hats off to Will Unseld and Warren Central. (Former WCHS coach) Tim Riley and I are really good friends, and Will’s done a great job of replacing job of replacing Tim and winning the region.  They have a heck of a team. Don’t think they didn’t run at us and play their tails off.”

Dragons’ rally in third quarter: “I think it’s a credit to our kids that we were able to withstand that third quarter. It was a barrage. It felt like a landslide, and our guys got back to playing defense. We got back to rebounding and were able to pull it out.”

CHRIS PORTER-BUNTON, WCHS junior forward

Playing better in the second half: “We knew we had to get it in the post, and our teammates did a great job of feeding us the ball. We knew they couldn’t hold us down low. We kept gutting it out.”

OMAR PREWITT, MCHS senior forward

Pulling away late: “That’s what we’ve been doing all year. I think we’ve only had one win within 10 points this year. Our pressure just really got into teams late. We keep the defensive pressure … and they just wear down.”

BYRON CARVER, WCHS junior forward

Montgomery’s late run: “We were just pushing it like always. We were trying to keep it going. We weren’t going to let it go. Coach told us to gut it out, and we did.”

Indians answering every WCHS push: “We knew when we took the lead, they were going to come back with us. Coach told us to calm down and just play defense.”

Heard named Sun Belt Conference women’s coach of the year; Govan, Gooch on 1st team, Gooch defensive POY

In one season, Michelle Clark-Heard lifted the Western Kentucky women’s basketball team out of a downward trend and into the conversation for a conference title.

Heard has been recognized for her part in the Lady Toppers’ turnaround with the Sun Belt Conference’s coach of the year award, the league announced today.

The Sun Belt’s all-conference teams and individual awards are decided by voting from the league’s coaches and media.

Heard has led WKU to a 20-9 record and the third seed in the conference tournament after the program finished 9-21 in 2011-12. The Lady Tops were projected fifth in the East Division in the preseason.

“I’ve got to give a ton of credit to those players,” Heard said. “When you have players that have bought in with such a change, it’s a testament to them. If I could give a coach of the year plaque to my whole staff, I would because this journey wouldn’t be the same without them. I know my name is on that, but it’s more of a team thing for me.”

WKU sophomores Alexis Govan and Chastity Gooch were named to the conference’s first team.

Govan is averaging 20 points per game, while Gooch averages 16 points and 11.3 rebounds and is third in the nation with 23 double-doubles.

“Everyone wants to win every game, but then I remember how awesome it is to have such a young team that has made such a huge turnaround,” Heard said. “Sometimes I think they may be too young to grasp what they’ve done, but hopefully this will open their eyes a little bit.”

The WKU duo was joined on the first team by Middle Tennessee’s Ebony Rowe and Kortni Jones, and Florida International’s Jerica Coley.

Coley, who leads the nation in scoring, was selected as player of the year. North Texas’ Loryn Goodwin was named freshman of the year.

Gooch was picked as defensive player of the year. She’s first in the conference in rebounding and blocks, and second in steals.

“Every day, I go back and I think how much those kids have improved and put so much on their shoulders,” Heard said of Gooch and Govan. “It’s really an honor for me to have the opportunity to coach them.”

WOMEN’S FIRST TEAM ALL-CONFERENCE
Jerica Coley (FIU, junior guard)
Kortni Jones (Middle Tennessee, senior guard)
Ebony Rowe (Middle Tennessee, junior forward)
Chastity Gooch (WKU, sophomore forward)
Alexis Govan (WKU, sophomore guard)

WOMEN’S SECOND TEAM ALL-CONFERENCE
Taylor Ford (UALR, junior guard)
Jane Morrill (Arkansas State, junior forward)
Chenise Miller (Florida Atlantic, junior forward)
Icelyn Elie (Middle Tennessee, senior forward)
Joanna Harden (Troy, junior guard)

WOMEN’S THIRD TEAM ALL-CONFERENCE
Marita Davydova (FIU, junior center)
Ashleigh Simmons (Louisiana-Monroe, junior forward)
Loryn Goodwin (North Texas, freshman guard)
Alexis Hyder (North Texas, freshman forward)
Mary Nixon (South Alabama, senior guard)

WOMEN’S PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Jerica Coley (FIU, junior guard)

WOMEN’S DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Chastity Gooch (WKU, sophomore forward)

WOMEN’S FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR
Loryn Goodwin (North Texas, freshman guard)

WOMEN’S COACH OF THE YEAR
Michelle Clark-Heard (WKU)

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.”