Lady Toppers rebound with 86-63 win over Murray State; Noble makes return, Diddle debut

The Western Kentucky women’s basketball team continued to show its ability to bounce back Saturday, beating Murray State 86-63 at E.A. Diddle Arena.

The win helped cast aside some sour feelings from the Lady Toppers’ 85-60 loss to Vanderbilt on Monday. WKU (2-1) improved to 10-2 under coach Michelle Clark-Heard following a loss.

The Lady Tops dominated in the post, led by junior forward Chastity Gooch’s 24 points and 12 rebounds. Sophomore guard Micah Jones added 16 points, and junior guard Alexis Govan had 14 points and six rebounds.

Sophomore forward Jalynn McClain recorded a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds. Senior guard Bianca McGee chipped in nine points and nine rebounds. Redshirt freshman guard Kendall Noble, who tore her ACL in her second appearance last season, made her career home debut and scored four points in 12 minutes.

The Lady Tops outscored Murray State 48-8 in the paint, won the battle of the boards 56-36 and scored 25 second-chance points. Jessica Winfrey and Keiona Kirby paced the Racers (2-1) with 11 points apiece.

WKU returns to action at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Southeast Missouri State.

Here are postgame comments from Heard, Gooch, McClain and Noble:

MICHELLE CLARK-HEARD

Did you feel like you improved on the mistakes at Vandy? “I was really pleased with our effort and our intensity. I thought we started the game. I talked to them about getting off to a good start, and we did that. We made free throws tonight, which was really important, but we got on the boards, too, and I’m excited about that. Jalynn McClain had an unbelievable game, had a double-double and was rebounding and doing a lot of things. And Chastity was back to her normal self. She was looking for her shots on the inside, and I thought she kept getting better throughout the game.”

Govan’s play: “I thought Alexis struggled a little bit. She only had two in the first half. I talked to her at halftime about just calming down and letting the game come to her.”

Improvements needed: “I keep saying to myself that this is the third game of the season. We’re going to have to continue to keep working so we can build on the things we’re working on.”

Rebounding, getting second-chance points: “That was something we emphasized when we got back, because we got it handed to us at Vandy and didn’t go to the boards hard enough. We understand as coaches that you’re not going to get every rebound, but the effort is what we talk a lot about. We try to focus on defense – how many stops we can get, and I was proud of them for working on those things.”

Noble returning to the court: “It’s kind of like a mom. I’m really happy for her because Kendall was one of the first ones that really believed in this program and what we were trying to do. It’s been tough. It’s been a tough ride for her, and it’s been tough for me as a coach to have to see her go through it. But I’m super proud of her and her perseverance. … It was a proud moment for me to see her check in and get out on the court. I think the fans were anticipating getting a chance to see her, and that’s the greatest thing. We’re going to continue to monitor her so we can make sure we can have her for a while.”

Play of freshman Bria Gaines: “She’s gotten better and better. Our goal is to keep getting her better so that when it becomes conference time and we have to go up against some bigger bodies, she’s going to continue to get those minutes. She’s proven it in practice.”

Getting more post production: “It’s a big deal, because you’re looking at a three-player post rotation where I know every day what you’re getting. I think Ruta will come along, but she has to continue to keep getting stronger. I think the game is moving a little fast for her right now, so we’re still bringing her along. Jalynn’s whole approach to the game is totally different now. She’s more aggressive, she’s looking for different things, she’s more confident in her shot. That’s the Jalynn McClain I watched in high school. Kudos to (former WKU coach) Mary Taylor (Cowles) for signing Jalynn because she’s a great get and will keep getting better.”

On next opponent, SEMO: “They’re very well-coached. They’re not going to press us, but they switch and do a lot of change-ups on defense. They have some kids who can shoot it, but they like to put it on the floor and get to the basket. They have a couple of kids who rebound really well. We’ll have to go in on the road and focus and buckle down.”

CHASTITY GOOCH

Thoughts on the win: “I felt like we did a very good job. Vanderbilt was a learning game. We’ve been focusing on defense a lot, and I felt like we did a pretty good job this afternoon.”

Improved play of McClain, Gaines: “It’s very big for me. It’s helpful to us, because they’re coming in and working hard all the time. It also gives me a break at the same time.”

KENDALL NOBLE

Getting back on the court? “It was great. I finally got to play at Diddle as a Lady Topper, so that was nice. I was a little timid, but hopefully I’ll get back into it.”

Were you worried after contact in second half? “Nah, I fall all the time, so it’s OK.”

Learning to have patience: “I was trying to play two weeks ago, but they wouldn’t let me. I think I’ve grown a lot from it. I’m not used to sitting out. It’s not fun, but I’m glad to be back.”

JALYNN MCCLAIN

What’s taken your game to the next level? “I think I’ve matured a lot. I’m helping my teammates, and with coach, we have goals. We try to make sure I meet my goals every game, and it starts at practice with going hard, rebounding.”

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