Lady Tops overcome 22-point deficit but fall 85-77 at Ball State

The Western Kentucky women’s basketball team fell behind by 22 points in the first half Saturday at Ball State, rallied to claim a six-point advantage in the second half, but ultimately fell 85-77 at Worthen Arena in Muncie, Ind.

“We get down 22 on the road, and it’s a battle,” WKU coach Michelle Clark-Heard said by phone. “They shot the ball incredibly well, and one point we were at about 23 percent. We were turning it over some and not making our free throws. But we went in the locker room and regrouped, and we threw some different things at them. But I knew this was a good ball club, so we had to figure out what we were going to do.”

The Lady Toppers (5-3) trailed 38-16 with 39 seconds left in the first half after two free throws by Ball State’s Jill Morrison. The Cardinals led 40-22 at halftime as WKU shot 26.5 percent before the break, but the Lady Tops climbed back with a 39-17 run to tie it at 55-55 on a free throw by redshirt freshman guard Kendall Noble with 10:35 to play.

Senior guard Bianca McGee followed with two straight 3-pointers to give the Lady Tops a 61-55 lead.

But Ball State (3-4) answered with back-to-back 3s by Shelbie Justice and Shelby Merder to get in front 68-66, and WKU never pulled in front again.

“To be down 18 at half and then go up by six said a lot,” Heard said. “They just made some crucial 3s. They made a couple that broke our back.”

Ball State shot 47.8 percent from the field, made 9 of 17 3-pointers and netted 32 of 42 free throws. Morrison led all scorers with 26 points, while Nathalie Fontaine added 23 for the Cardinals.

McGee knocked down five 3-pointers and led WKU with 23 points. Junior guard Alexis Govan had 20 points and a career-high eight assists, and sophomore guard Micah Jones added 15 points.

Govan crossed the 1,000-point career plateau in the loss, making her the first Lady Topper to reach the mark since Amy McNear in 2011.

Junior forward Chastity Gooch recorded a double-double with 12 points and 13 rebounds. Noble chipped in seven points and six rebounds in 20 minutes off the bench.

Freshman center Bria Gaines drew her first career starting nod but was limited to six minutes because of foul trouble.

“I’m very proud of our group,” Heard said. “I’m just hurting right now because I wish we could’ve won. This was a moral victory in the second half. I wish we would’ve got the win, but it showed me our resilient my group is and how much they’re growing.”

WKU hosts Jackson State at 2 p.m. Dec. 15 in its last home game until Jan. 8.

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