Lady Tops host Texas State on Saturday in Play4Kay game

This signed pink Lady Topper jersey is one of the items that will be auctioned off Saturday to benefit the Kay Yow Cancer Fund at E.A. Diddle Arena. (Photo by Zach Greenwell)

This signed pink Lady Topper jersey is one of the items that will be auctioned off Saturday to benefit the Kay Yow Cancer Fund at E.A. Diddle Arena. (Photo by Zach Greenwell)

The Western Kentucky women’s basketball team hosts Texas State at 4:30 p.m. Saturday in its Play4Kay game to support the Kay Yow Cancer Fund, which is a charitable organization committed to the fight against women’s cancers.

The Lady Toppers (14-5 overall, 6-2 Sun Belt Conference) will continue their annual tradition of wearing pink jerseys in support of the cause. A silent auction will begin at 3:30 p.m. in the E.A. Diddle Arena Hall of Champions to benefit the Kay Yow Cancer Fund. Signed items from coach Michelle Clark-Heard, the 2013-14 Lady Toppers and WKU legend Crystal Kelly are among the items available for auction. The auction will close at the conclusion of halftime of the men’s game that follows the Lady Topper game.

WKU is coming off a 59-46 win Wednesday over Texas Arlington. Here are Heard’s comments about the Texas State game:

MICHELLE CLARK-HEARD

Comments from Heard on Play4Kay. Here full comments on the initiative can be found here“I just think this is an awesome opportunity. We just want everyone to come out and wear their pink, and come out and support.”

On Texas State: “They’re big and athletic. They do a lot of different things and change-ups. The head coach coached there with coach Collins. They run some similar things that we do – some motion offense. They have two big post players who are really good. … We’ve just got to get out and guard, and we’re going to have to rebound and play defense.”

Chance to move to 15-5: “It’s always awesome when you can get another win. But to put yourself in position to continue to keep winning on your home court in conference, that’s what it’s all about. That’s what we talk about. We’re trying to be the best we can be in February and March, and February’s hit now.”

Has the focus been rebounding, defense since Wednesday? “Pretty much. You could probably ask the players that. I think the biggest thing when I went back and watched film, what I talked to the team about is our intensity. We weren’t the same team that has normally came out of the locker room, with our energy and effort. I know we have to keep working fundamentally, but when you add that extra energy – the things we do getting to 50-50 balls – I think that’ll help us a lot, too.”

Team having to find ways to get intensity up itself: “If you’re down or tight with a team, you’ve got to find some of that inside of you as a player and as a team to come back and put yourself in a position to win. I think we are growing. But I also know we’re still young. When you hit that second semester, you’re telling the freshmen they’re not freshmen anymore. The sophomores, you keep growing. The more situations you’re in, the more familiar you are with what you need to do in particular situations.”

Micah Jones’ hot streak: “Someone walked in practice yesterday. She passed up a shot. I stopped talking to that person and I told Micah, ‘Every time you’re open, I want you to shoot it.’ That’s how much confidence I have in her and her teammates. I’m proud of her, because I challenged her in the summer to be one of the best 3-point shooters in the league. She’s really worked to try to put herself in that position.”

What her hot shooting does for the team: “It helps us that we can put her at the shooting guard some. … I think the biggest thing it does is open it up again for Chastity on the inside. That’s what we’ve been trying to do, go inside-out. You open things up in the middle. I tell Chastity that every day I take my hat off to her, because she’s battling every second, trying to get the ball and get open with two or three defenders on her.”

Jones, others putting in extra work in the gym: “I told them that from the first day I got here. Putting in extra work and doing those things is going to pay off for you. I told them I wasn’t saying it would be the first week or second week. But when you keep doing it and it becomes a repetition, it becomes natural to you when you get out there, that confidence.”

Lady Tops survive sluggish effort for 59-46 win over Texas Arlington

The Western Kentucky women’s basketball team survived a sluggish effort Wednesday night, pulling away in the second half for a 59-46 win over Texas Arlington at E.A. Diddle Arena.

The Lady Toppers improved to 14-5 overall and 6-2 in Sun Belt Conference play, and kept UTA (1-18, 0-8) from picking up a much-needed win. Bianca McGee led WKU with 17 points, while Micah Jones added 15.

Chastity Gooch finished with 12 points and 12 rebounds. The Lady Tops host Texas State at 4:30 p.m. Saturday.

Here are postgame comments from McGee, Jones and coach Michelle Clark-Heard:

MICHELLE CLARK-HEARD

What did you tell team at halftime? “I probably couldn’t talk about it right now. No, we just talked about coming out of the locker room ready to play in the beginning. That was something we didn’t do. They outhustled us. They got the 50-50 balls. They rebounded. I’m looking at this offensive rebounds, and they had 21. It’s not acceptable.”

More on halftime talk: “We talked about making sure we could turn the momentum of the game and shift it. I was proud of them in the second half, especially the first five minutes. I think we did that.”

Did Lady Tops naturally overlook 1-17 team? “I don’t think they naturally overlooked them at all because that’s all I talked about, from the time we came off the road until we started to practice. These games are tough. Any coach can tell you. It’s always tough when you have a team that hasn’t won in the conference, but has some different players who can do different things and score. I told you all it wasn’t going to be an easy game.”

McGee getting back on track: “It was really big. I’m happy for her, because she had been struggling some. She’s been a known scorer for us, and over the past games, she hasn’t scored as much. She’s struggled turning the ball over some, but she took care of the basketball, made some open shots. I try to talk to all the players about making sure – I don’t want them to put pressure on themselves. This was a good game for her to have some shots to drop, and she did some good things defensively.”

Gooch’s second-half rebounding: “In the beginning, she only had two, but she was going every single time. But she was the only one. I was pointing out to the players, ‘Chastity can’t get every rebound.’ We didn’t rebound the way we needed to, and we’ll go back and address that and try to get better.”

MICAH JONES

Coming out of halftime: “We just had to focus on getting stops and getting rebounds, which we didn’t do in the first half. We didn’t get any 50-50 balls in the first half. We buckled down and got some stops and picked up our energy a little bit. We need to quit going off our offense. If we’re not scoring, we quit playing defense, and we can’t be like that.”

Rebounding struggles: “We try to outjump people, and we’ve got to learn to push back. We have to quit stopping and staring and go get the ball.”

Did you all overlook them? “We didn’t overlook them. If you look at their scores, they stay close with every team. They’re itching to get a win, and they’re right there in every game. We just didn’t come out with the energy. We’ve had a couple slow starts the last few games. We have to pick that up.”

BIANCA MCGEE

Overlook team at all? “We knew they were going to be very good and athletic. We often try to outjump people, but we just have to keep working on boxing out and pushing back. They’re very athletic, so we’re not going to outjump them.”

Scoring 17: “They were telling me to keep shooting, so I just shot it. The one that banked in – I didn’t call that one, but it went in, so it was a little bit of luck on that one. It was good to get it back on rolling.”

Coach encouraging her: “She stays in my ear about letting it all come to me. Every day I try to remember that, relax and listen to the coaching staff and my teammates.”

WKU Lady Tops signee Ivy Brown named Kentucky Miss Basketball finalist

LaRue County guard Ivy Brown shoots last season against Green County at LCHS.  (Neal Cardin, Elizabethtown News-Enterprise/Special to the Daily News)

LaRue County guard Ivy Brown shoots last season against Green County at LCHS. (Neal Cardin, Elizabethtown News-Enterprise/Special to the Daily News)

LaRue County senior guard Ivy Brown, a Western Kentucky signee, was named today as a finalist for the 2014 Kentucky Miss Basketball award.

The 6-foot-2-inch guard would be the Lady Toppers’ first Miss Basketball to join the program out of high school since Crystal Kelly did so in 2004 out of Sacred Heart. 2006 winner Arnika Brown, from Christian County, was the last Miss Basketball to play for WKU after transferring from Kentucky.
 
Four of the top 10 scorers in Lady Topper history were Kentucky Miss Basketball winners.

The other finalists for this year’s award are Anderson County’s MacKenzie Cann and Eriel McKee, Newport Central Catholic’s Nicole Kiernan, Perry County Central’s Kayla Rankin, Ballard’s Javonna Layfield and Sacred Heart’s Daijia Ruffin.

The Mr. and Miss Basketball awards will be announced March 18 before the start of boys’ state tournament.

Ivy Brown, who was also named a nominee for the 2014 McDonald’s All American Game, is ranked 73rd nationally in the 2014 class by ESPN’s HoopsGurlz and 80th by All Star Girls Report.

Brown is averaging 21.5 points per game, 12.5 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 3.5 steals per game for LaRue County (13-4). She had 27 points, 18 rebounds and six assists Monday as the Lady Hawks earned a 65-58 win at No. 1 Elizabethtown, according to the Elizabethtown News-Enterprise.

WKU coach Michelle Clark-Heard was in attendance for that game.

“Had a good night last night. Had the opportunity go out and watch Ivy play against the No. 1 team in the state, and I was super-proud of how well she played and her team,” Heard said Tuesday. “I’m just excited that we’re going to have the opportunity to coach her for four years.”

Lady Tops prep to host Texas Arlington; Govan not ready to return

Western Kentucky Lady Toppers guard Alexis Govan watches from the sidelines as her team warms up Jan. 8 before a home game against Georgia State at E.A. Diddle Arena. (Miranda Pederson/Daily News)

Western Kentucky Lady Toppers guard Alexis Govan watches from the sidelines as her team warms up Jan. 8 before a home game against Georgia State at E.A. Diddle Arena. (Miranda Pederson/Daily News)

Western Kentucky junior guard Alexis Govan is progressing – not regressing – but she’s still not ready to return from injury.

That was the word Tuesday from WKU after coach Michelle Clark-Heard met with the media to preview the Lady Toppers’ homestand, starting at 7 p.m. Wednesday against Sun Belt Conference newcomer Texas Arlington.

Govan has missed WKU’s last seven games – all in conference play – with a stress fracture in her left tibia. The initial projection was that she might be able to return in late January, but her latest trip to the doctor showed her progress isn’t yet where it needs to be, according to WKU.

Govan is moving in the right direction, but the nature of her stress fracture injury make it difficult to predict a timetable for her return, according to WKU. It’ll remain more of a wait-and-see situation for now.

Govan has been in a walking boot and on crutches over the last few weeks to speed her recovery efforts. The 5-foot-10-inch guard from San Antonio was averaging 16.5 points, 4.6 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 2.5 steals over 11 games before her injury.

But the Lady Tops (13-5) have gone 5-2 in conference play without the league’s preseason player of the year, including three road wins. Govan’s absence has also led to elevated play from starters such as Chastity Gooch and Micah Jones, as well as the emergence of role players like Kendall Noble and Chanell Lockhart.

Here is what Michelle Clark-Heard had to say today:

MICHELLE CLARK-HEARD

Home for a couple of games: “Excited to be back at home. We’re looking forward to keep getting better, so we can get to the point that we can do the things we need to control our own destiny. We want to be in a position where we can put two 20-minute halves together. … We’ve got to keep molding so we can put 40 minutes together.”

Noble’s improved play: “I’m just happy for her. The injuries have plagued her. But she’s been able to show some of the fans. She was huge for us on the road. She’s a very talented player, very smart, and gives us the opportunity to put Micah at the shooting position and run her at the point sometimes.”

Did you expect Noble to be so versatile on the college level? “I always thought Kendall was a sleeping giant out there. I watched her a lot in high school. She can do a lot of different things. But you never know. You never know at this level when it’s going to happen, or how fast it’s going to happen. I’m just really excited it’s happening right now, and she’s feeling confident. Her teammates are confident in what she can do, and they’re all just working together. We’re pulling together as one.”

People stepping up with Govan out: “It’s been huge. It’s been a great team effort. Different people have stepped up at different times, and I think that’s what it’s all about. We’re just trying to grow as a team. We want to be playing the best basketball we can in February. We’ve found a way to win. Now we’ve got to put together two good games at home and take care of business.”

Texas Arlington being 1-17 overall, 0-7 in SBC: “Don’t look at 1-17 or that they haven’t won a game in the league, because they’re probably the best 1-17 team I’ve seen. Athletically, they get up and down the floor. They’re going to change up defenses on us, which sometimes is a struggle for us. They’ll give us a lot of different zone looks. … It’s going to be a challenge for us. There is no way that you look at anyone’s record and think there’s a situation where you can come out with a win without you playing. We’re not sleeping on them.”

Not taking UTA for granted: “There’s no complacency with us, because we can’t have complacency. There’s no room for error in this league. We’re tied right now with Georgia State, which has gone on a four-game winning streak. You’ve got to be prepared each day when you come out.”

Lady Toppers looking for more intensity, defensive execution on Louisiana road swing

The Western Kentucky women’s basketball team hits the road again this week, starting at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Louisiana-Monroe.

The Lady Toppers (11-5 overall, 3-2 Sun Belt Conference) are coming off a 67-64 home loss Saturday to league-leading Arkansas State. We met with WKU coach Michelle Clark-Heard and junior guard Chanell Lockhart on Monday to preview the Louisiana swing, which is capped by a game at 5 p.m. Saturday at Louisiana-Lafayette.

In Wednesday’s BGDN, you won’t find much specifically about ULM. Instead, I take a closer look at the junior-college transfer Lockhart, and how she’s changed as a person from a standout prep player on the south side of Chicago to a defensive specialist for WKU.

But we did talk plenty Monday about the Warhawks and the Arkansas State loss, so here are Heard and Lockhart’s comments:

MICHELLE CLARK-HEARD

Defense, rebounding: “That’s been the focus. Of course, after every game you get the chance to go back and watch film, and we were right there. We did a lot of different things that we tried to do, but we also gave up some crucial baskets at crucial times. We’ve been working on boxing out and other fundamental things we have to get better out. But the main thing was our intensity level. We didn’t come out of the locker room the way we did in the past few games.”

Where team is at right now: “All the games we’ve played the last four games have been really, really close. It’s always going to be us trying to get better. We’re still early in the season, but we have to keep getting better. They say you’re supposed to be playing your best basketball when it comes February and March. We’re right at the tail of January, so we’re trying to keep getting better so we can be better.”

Pointing out miscues on film: “I’ve been a player myself, and sometimes you don’t think you look the way you do when you see yourself on film, and then you go back and watch. I think that was an unbelievable teaching moment. We are big on watching film. We don’t watch a ton of it, but when we do, we want to make sure we get the point across, and I think that’s what we did (Sunday). I was pleased with our effort when we came back.”

On Louisiana-Monroe: “Athletic. They get up and down the floor. They’ll press us some. They’ve got three guards who are shooting the 3 very well, so we’re going to have to guard the 3. They have Simmons on the inside … and they have another big kid coming off the bench. We have to focus on what we can do and what we can control, and that’s our effort and the little things.”

Hitting the road: “We’ve been pretty good on the road. We’ve been able to go on the road and take care of business. It’s a mentality. The good teams figure out ways to win on the road.”

CHANELL LOCKHART

What team has been working on: “Just defense, doing the little things – boxing out, rebounding. That’s about it. Everything else will take care of itself.”

Did you all discuss Saturday’s loss? “Nothing to really discuss. Defensively, we had some breakdowns. We couldn’t get a stop at the end of the game, so it’s just playing defense in practice every day.”

How did Arkansas State win the boards by so much? “They were just being more aggressive, going to get the rebound.”

Lady Tops, Arkansas State talk about WKU’s 67-64 home loss Saturday

The Western Kentucky women’s basketball team couldn’t hold on late Saturday against Arkansas State, falling 67-64 at E.A. Diddle Arena.

The Lady Tops (11-5 overall, 3-2 Sun Belt Conference) led 48-40 with 11:06 to play before ASU’s Hanna Qedan knocked down two 3-pointers to make it a two-point game. WKU shot 39.2 percent and got outrebounded 37-23.

Here are postgame comments from WKU coach Michelle Clark-Heard, redshirt freshman guard Kendall Noble and Arkansas State coach Brian Boyer:

MICHELLE CLARK-HEARD

How did lead slip? “We gave up two back-to-back 3s. When you don’t guard in certain situations, they’re too good of a ballclub. (Qedan) hadn’t made any, and she made that one, and I knew. We got lost on the rotation, and she made another one.”

Coming back after early deficit: “We battled back. We’ve just got to get better that in certain situations, we’re doing the exact things we need to do defensively. We’re going to use this game as a teaching moment.”

Slow start: “As a staff, we try to make sure we don’t put any pressure on our kids. But they read Twitter and read everything else, and they knew this was a game that could have put us in first place. We’ve still got a young team, and we’re going to keep grinding every day to get better.”

Still early in league play: “You try to make sure you can control your own destiny. They could’ve continued to add to the lead, but they didn’t. We took the lead and just had a couple of lapses. I’m proud of my group and the way we continued to keep fighting.”

Getting beat on boards: “We’ve got to go back and go to work on boxing out and doing some things so we don’t allow that to happen again.”

Play of Noble and Jones: “I was on both of them a little bit. They had grown up. Micah has done a tremendous job for us at the point guard, and I’m putting Kendall in at a lot of different positions. She’s growing up each and every day.”

Those two being aggressive: “We’ve been talking to the guards about staying low to the ground. The motion offense we run is hard to guard when the guards stay low and come off the screens and do what they need to.”

Playing at Monroe, Lafayette this week: “Any time you have to go on the road in the conference, it’s always tough. They’ve worked their way up and climbed – athletic, and they’ll run and press. We’ll have to get prepared for that and make sure we take care of the basketball.”

While studying stat sheet: “I look at the stats, and we were right there on everything.”

KENDALL NOBLE

How did lead get away? “We just couldn’t get a stop like the last three minutes or something. They just kept scoring, and we weren’t. That’s pretty much what it came down to.”

Getting outrebounded: “It’s really disappointing. There were some athletes who could out-jump us, obviously, but we just didn’t get a body on them and box them out.”

Being able to drive to basket: “They weren’t really playing the gaps well, and we could get to the lane pretty much any time we wanted. But we just missed some layups. I missed the layups. … We had a chance to win but just couldn’t pull it out.”

BRIAN BOYER

Getting road win: “I still haven’t figured this team out. Every conference win we’ve had, we’ve been down at least eight or so in the second half. We did it again today, but I just love the way this team responds.”

Qedan’s 3-pointers: “Man, those were huge. The confidence to step up and hit those, they were huge for us.”

Parity in conference: “It’s going to be an entertaining race across the board. It’s been a lot of years, and most years, there wasn’t much excitement to wake up and look at the conference scores because you pretty much knew. But this year, every night it’s something.”

Lady Toppers look ahead to Saturday’s home game against Sun Belt-leading Arkansas State

The Western Kentucky women’s basketball team hosts Arkansas State at 4:30 p.m. Saturday.

The Red Wolves are atop the Sun Belt standings at 4-1, and the Lady Tops will be looking for some revenge after getting swept in the regular season last year by ASU. The game will be broadcast on WKYU-PBS, ESPN3 and ESPN Full Court.

WKU is coming off a 65-39 home win Wednesday over Arkansas-Little Rock.

We spoke with coach Michelle Clark-Heard and junior forward Chastity Gooch today to preview the game. Here are their comments:

MICHELLE CLARK-HEARD

Moving from Wednesday’s win to Saturday’s game: “It was a great win and exciting for the players, but this is a big game. Arkansas State is leading the conference, and they’ve got a ton of players. … We’re going to have to guard. Just a very balanced attack, and they’re going to be ready to go. They’re coming off a loss, and they’re going to be ready to go when they get in here.”

How did ASU lose to Georgia State: “Georgia State made a lot of shots in the beginning. They pressed and changed up their defenses. Anytime you can do that, you have the opportunity to put a team on their heels.”

Importance of game on standings: “They’re only taking eight teams to the tournament this year, and we want to be in a great position where we can control our own destiny. That’s the opportunity that presents itself (today), to go up against the team that’s won the most games in the conference.”

On ASU’s Gamble: “She brings a ton to them because she can shoot the 3 and put it on the floor and get it to the basket. She’s very offensive-minded. She leads their team. They look for her. When it’s tight and it’s crunch time, they put the ball in her hands, and she’s going to make some decision. But she lets the game come to her.”

Getting revenge for last year: “I know they understand we got swept by Arkansas State. … This is a great opportunity for us on our home court to keep rising and get us to where we need to.”

CHASTITY GOOCH

Wednesday’s win over UALR: “We did everything well. We communicated on the court, and we played as a team.”

On ASU: “Their posts are really good. We know they’ve got a new player, the point guard, and we heard she’s really good.”

Getting revenge on ASU: “It’s not as much us getting revenge on them as it is putting us in a position to win.”

Stepping up with Alexis Govan out: “I just try to make everybody better, encourage everybody and keep pushing.”