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:
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.”
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.”
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.”