Lady Tops earn fourth straight win by 20-plus points with 75-45 victory at Texas State

The Western Kentucky women’s basketball team proved it’s just as dangerous right now on the road as it is at home, dominating Texas State on Wednesday night for a 75-45 win at Strahan Coliseum in San Marcos, Texas.

The Lady Toppers (18-8 overall, 10-5 Sun Belt Conference) have won four straight games by 20 or more points for the first time since the 1994-95 season. With their win over Texas State and Arkansas-Little Rock’s loss to Troy, WKU is alone in second place in the Sun Belt behind Arkansas State.

Junior forward Chastity Gooch led four WKU players in double figures scoring with 15 points. Freshman center Bria Gaines had 13 points and seven rebounds, and sophomore guard Micah Jones added 12 points and six rebounds. Senior guard Bianca McGee had 11 points.

Redshirt freshman guard Kendall Noble tallied seven points, eight assists, seven steals and five rebounds.

The Lady Tops return to action Saturday at Texas Arlington.

Here are postgame comments from Noble and WKU coach Michelle Clark-Heard:

MICHELLE CLARK-HEARD

Another big win: “We keep talking about our goals and what we want to do, and how we want to get better every day. For us to play this well on the road, and for different people to step up … it was awesome to see. I’m just excited for this group.”

24-2 run in first half: “Our defense was really good for us tonight. We were able to switch up and do some different things, and it helped us. We made some shots, and we only missed one free throw in the first half. We had people come off the bench, and that’s what it takes.”

Noble’s all-around production: “Sometimes I have to really take a step back and look at it, because she’s phenomenal and gifted in so many different areas. I get really excited because I remember she’s just a freshman.”

UT-Arlington on Saturday: “We’ve got to come out in that first half ready to play. That was another game against Arlington where we struggled. We turned the ball over some, didn’t rebound, didn’t guard the way we needed to. Those are things we have to work on.”

Being alone in second place in standings: “They’ve worked to keep adjusting. We’re up 20 today, and I’m still on them because I want them to have the opportunity to be the best they can be. They take the coaching, and they’re hungry to get even better, so the staff is very excited about that.”

KENDALL NOBLE

Big win: “It’s a big win. It was a good team effort. Everybody contributed today, so it was exciting for the team to do it on the road.”

First-half run: “We started forcing some turnovers. We were active on defense and got some easy baskets and layups in transition. We knew that could make the game a lot for easier us.”

Are you going to get a triple-double at some point? There’s never been one by a Lady Topper. “I don’t know. I’m just going to go out and play hard every night, and if it comes, it comes.”

Getting Texas State back for first loss: “We needed this win. They really made us look bad. They put it on us on our court, so it’s nice to get a win and know that we can beat them even though they’ve got the big girls – that we can outrebound them and battle with them.”

At UT-Arlington on Saturday: “We just have to come out with the energy like we have, get easy baskets. I think the game will come to us if we play hard.”

Has team turned a corner over last few weeks? “We finally found out what it takes to win. We have to play with energy. We can’t just expect to turn it on at any time. If we play with energy all the time, it’ll show on the court, and I think it has been.”

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WKU guard Alexis Govan not cleared to play after Monday’s latest X-ray

I’ve been in Glasgow for high school basketball tonight, but I wanted to pass along a quick update with the news the Western Kentucky women’s basketball team didn’t want to get today.

The program confirmed tonight that junior guard Alexis Govan was not cleared to play after an X-ray to check the progress of the stress fracture in her left tibia.

Govan’s “progress will continue to be monitored for a possible return to the court this season,” according to a statement from WKU.

The Sun Belt Conference preseason player of the year has missed WKU’s last 14 games, all in conference play. She was averaging 16.5 points, 4.6 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 2.5 steals before the injury.

Her last game was Dec. 21 against Georgetown in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

WKU coach Michelle Clark-Heard said Friday that the Lady Toppers were still hoping to get Govan back this season and have her log some minutes before the postseason started. WKU has four regular-season games remaining, starting Wednesday at Texas State.

Lady Toppers roll to dominant 92-63 victory over Louisiana-Monroe

The Western Kentucky women’s basketball team earned its third straight win by at least 26 points Saturday with a 92-63 victory over Louisiana-Monroe at E.A. Diddle Arena.

The Lady Toppers (17-8 overall, 9-5 Sun Belt Conference) had five players in double figures scoring, led by junior forward Chastity Gooch’s 20 points. Senior guard Bianca McGee had 17 points, and junior guard Chanell Lockhart added nine points, 12 rebounds and three steals.

Here are postgame comments from WKU coach Michelle Clark-Heard, Lockhart, Gooch and McGee, as well as ULM coach Mona Martin:

MICHELLE CLARK-HEARD

On big win: “I just didn’t know how we were going to respond from being off a whole week and coming back out. We had some OK practices – a good day here or there – so I was just really proud of our focus today and how we came out of the locker room. We didn’t start out well … but we started to pick it up. I could see the energy as they kept going.”

Lockhart’s play: “Chanell Lockhart has been playing her tail off in practice. I’m a firm believer in practicing hard, do the things I ask you, and you’ll get that opportunity. I wanted to reward Chanell for what she’d been doing. You saw what she did on the floor.”

What she told Lockhart at the end: “I told her to keep doing what she’s been doing, because she was a big reason that we got that big win today. Everything that she brought to the table for us in practice, that’s the energy, excitement and focus we have to have every day for us to be good.”

Scoring balance: “Anytime you can find different people to score in different ways, it’s a challenge for the other team. We’re playing pretty good. We’re moving the ball well, we’re getting people the open shot. People are taking the shots they get in practice, and that’s important. … I want them to have fun. The past three games, I hope people have seen that this team is growing, having fun and working hard.”

Limiting turnovers: “That was one thing last year that we did a lot. We turned it over a lot. The next big thing is making free throws. We struggled a little in the beginning of the season, but now I think we’ve got back focused on what we need to do.”

Alexis Govan’s energy on the bench: “Alexis is a big part of that, too. If you all watch the games, she’s more into it than me sometimes, and I know I can be very intense. She’s over there coaching and cheering them on, and she’s the same way in practice. She’s the same way in film sessions. I think the team knows this has been a tough time for Alexis. Alexis is one of the most competitive players that I’ve ever coached. I’m proud of our team because I’ve seen the whole team grow.”

Govan wearing out coaches’ ears on the bench with her screams: “That’s probably not good. I turn around and look sometimes because I think it might be somebody else that might be yelling. It’s pretty awesome to see, and I always make sure I talk to her after the games and before. She’s a special young lady, and not just her, but this whole group.”

BIANCA MCGEE

Another blowout win: “Extremely fun. Going out there and being able to get everybody involved and play together and make some buckets, get some stops, it’s very fun to do.”

Limiting turnovers: “Most of our turnovers lead to made baskets, so coach has been getting on us to take care of the ball and taking every possession to execute and get a bucket. It’s very good that we’re still starting to get it. I need to work on that a little more, but we’re getting it.”

CHANELL LOCKHART

Her breakout game: “It was really big, just going out and getting the win, helping my team.”

Scoring off defense: “It’s just much easier and fun when you’re just running. When you don’t have to run a play every possession, that makes it better.”

CHASTITY GOOCH

Keeping foot on the gas: “I felt like we did a lot better with coming out the second half and keeping the lead and getting stops off the penetration. I thought we did really well with that.”

Govan on the bench: “Alexis is doing a great job. We can hear her out there, talking to us, and she’s been positive throughout this whole ordeal. I’m proud of her, but I’m ready for her to get back out on the court with us.”

MONA MARTIN

WKU going up big early: “We came out a little flat, and then they made runs. They’re hitting tough shots, and we’re missing easy bunnies, layups and wide-open 3s. I commend her team. They have really, really improved. We should have beat them at home, and we were never really in the game here.”

More on game: “To me, you have to come out on this court with a lot of fight and toughness, and to me, we were out-toughed all night.”

How WKU has progressed: “At first, it was Gooch having to do a lot. The first night we played them, Noble was averaging like 3.5 points and she had 20. I think that was her turning point, because we were not expecting that from her. Now she’s playing at a different level, but I see her other guards playing at a different level. I think it says a lot for them that even their bench players are coming in and stepping up. I think when she does get her player back, they’re going to be really special.”

On Lady Tops: “I’ve said from the get-go I think they’re the best team in the conference, and I still think they are. This is a tough place to play. I think they have a great opportunity if they get Govan back.”

Parity in the conference: “It’s unbelievable. We’re real up and down, but really, all the teams have been up and down. … I feel like if you show up offensively, you have an opportunity to win, especially with the way they’re calling the game now. To me, it’s about being score-minded and being able to hit shots.”

Bowling Green HS football team buys out of return game at Blackman (Tenn.)

Bowling Green High School football coach Kevin Wallace confirmed Friday that the program will not play its previously scheduled road game at Blackman (Tenn.) next season.

Wallace said in a statement via email that the Purples bought out of the return game, and that no public school funds were used to negate the contract. BGHS beat Blackman 26-25 on Nov. 1 on a tense night at El Donaldson Stadium.

Blackman coach Philip Shadowens told The Daily News Journal in Murfreesboro, Tenn., that Wallace confirmed in an email Bowling Green would pay a $5,000 buyout.

Wallace declined comment to the Daily News on the reasoning for negating the second year of the two-year contract. The Purples have a verbal agreement with a Kentucky school to replace Blackman on the 2014 schedule, which will be released once that new game is finalized, Wallace said.

Bowling Green trailed Blackman – located in Murfreesboro – by four at halftime and 25-20 with 4:18 left last year.

Devin Hayes’ 14-yard pass to Nacarius Fant on fourth down with 35 seconds left was the game-winner, but most of the talk in the immediate aftermath revolved around the friction between the programs and the six unsportsmanlike conduct/personal foul penalties the Blaze were called for in the second half.

Shadowens made multiple radio appearances in Tennessee the following Saturday morning, harshly criticizing the officiating in BG.

“It was a joke,” Shadowens said Nov. 2 on WGNS Radio’s Coaches Corner podcast. “It was pathetic. It was not about the kids, which is what high school sports is supposed to be about. It was a shame to see that happen. I thought our kids and their kids played with great effort.

“It was a great football game, but it was unfortunately controlled by a bunch of officials I guess decided they wanted it to be more about the state of Kentucky, I guess, than it was about high school football and high school athletes.”

Shadowens gave in-depth explanations for his grievances with the penalties, which included pairs of 15-yarders on consecutive offensive and defensive possessions for Blackman with the Purples down 19-13 in the second half.

Blackman was flagged for 12 penalties for 125-plus yards, while Bowling Green was called for three penalties for 15 yards.

He added that the Blaze had been called for four total unsportsmanlike conduct/personal foul penalties this season before Friday’s game, and that it could have been a great game if the officials had “been removed last night and just been normal human beings and let the kids play.”

It was also noted on the podcast that Blackman had just received an award for good sportsmanship from Tennessee’s high school sports governing body.

“We’re blessed to have a great school – lot of great coaches at our school in many sports and a lot of great kids at our school, so all the comments about how classless Blackman is and all those things that those idiots in Bowling Green said (Friday) night is a joke,” Shadowens said. “Anybody that knows us knows we’re competitive as heck. We’re going to compete and fight you and not back down from anything. That’s what our kids are about. But they’re also very classy kids, and unfortunately that wasn’t reciprocated last night.”

Before the game, the Blackman players ran through and cut short Bowling Green’s entrance onto the field.

The Blaze were also called for a personal foul after an interception as time expired in the first half, and BG coach Kevin Wallace had words with members of the Blackman staff after the play.

“It did affect the game,” Wallace said after the win. “I’m just glad our guys kept their composure. We were the ones that kept our composure.”

Added Bowling Green senior linebacker Austin Jones that night: “I was really surprised by those penalties. That just shows you that we play with class; they don’t, and we’re better than them.”

Bowling Green finished the season undefeated and went on to win its third straight Class 5A state title. It brings a 44-game winning streak – the third-longest in state history – into the 2014 season.

WKU’s Govan returning to doctor Monday; Lady Toppers host ULM

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 women’s basketball coach Michelle Clark-Heard told reporters at today’s media availability that injured junior guard Alexis Govan will return to the doctor Monday to evaluate the progress of the stress fracture in her left tibia.

“We’ll get another update on Monday,” Heard said. “We’ll get another update and kind of go from there. As we find out, you’ll find out. I think that’s kind of where we’re at. I’m looking forward to getting some news and hoping for the best for her.”

Govan has missed WKU’s last 13 games – all in conference play – with the injury. The initial projection was that she might be able to return in late January, but a trip to the doctor at the end of last month showed her progress wasn’t yet where it needed to be.

The hope is still that Govan can return before the Lady Toppers enter the Sun Belt Conference Tournament, Heard said. They have five regular-season games remaining, starting at 2 p.m. Saturday at home against Louisiana-Monroe.

“That’s the hope right now,” Heard said. “If anything changes, that’s something we would possibly find out Monday, going forward from there to see if there’s anything different. The plan is we’re going to be able to get her back on the court and get some minutes here hopefully coming up real soon, before the regular season ends and we go into tournament.”

Govan recently shed the crutches she’d been using since the injury but was still in a walking boot at last weekend’s win over South Alabama. 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.

Here is everything else Heard and junior forward Chastity Gooch had to say about hosting ULM on Saturday:

MICHELLE CLARK-HEARD

Preparing after off week: “I think we’re in a good place. Of course, last week was a great week for us, and we were playing some really good basketball. As a head coach, I kind of went into this week knowing it’s great when you can get your players some rest, but we were playing pretty good. I’m just hoping we come out and have that same intensity and same fire we had.”

Off week: “They really definitely needed a break. I think it was good for them mentally, if anything else, because basketball is a long season. … But we’ve still got to keep getting better and have a long way to go.”

On ULM: “They’re a scary team. Their record, I think, doesn’t indicate how well they can score and put up numbers. The post player, Simmons, is really good and can put it on the floor and score. She plays really hard. … They have a ton of players who can score in a variety of ways, and they’re going to press. We have to make sure we can handle the press and that we go back to playing our game, which is getting good shots, getting back in defensive transition and trying to get the ball up the floor.”

Secret being out on Kendall Noble: “She does so many different things. We don’t change anything. I think she has to keep being aggressive. That’s what I’m talking to her about. She can pass, she defensively gets her hands on a lot of balls, but we need her to score, too. Kendall has a very laid-back personality, and we have to make sure when she’s on the court, she has another personality.”

Keeping players fresh, not hitting wall: “Last year, it was new to them. Young team, they hadn’t experienced the things we went through. But every month, I think you grow and learn a little bit more. I think that’s where we’re at right now. We don’t talk about hitting the ball. We talk about how there’s a lot of people who wish they had the opportunity to be where we’re at. We talk to them about not taking things for granted.”

CHASTITY GOOCH

How team is feeling: “We’re feeling very well-rested. Coach gave us two days off. Our legs are rested, and (athletic trainer) Katie (Murphy) got us in treatment.”

Getting breaks over last couple weeks: “Some of us that were playing 30 to 40 minutes needed that break. It was very important.”

Watching some from the sideline: “Sometimes I wish I could be out there, but most of the time, it felt great just to sit on the side. I knew I could go in the game and play my hardest, and coach told me she was going to start giving me more breaks during the game.”

On ULM: “From watching film, they penetrated on us a lot and got a lot of transition baskets. We’re going to focus on defense and closing gaps.”

Lady Tops make 12 3-pointers, snap losing streak against South Alabama with 81-55 win

The Western Kentucky women’s basketball team made 12 3-pointers Saturday against South Alabama, snapping a five-game losing streak against the Jaguars with an 81-55 win at E.A. Diddle Arena.

The Lady Toppers (16-8 overall, 8-5 Sun Belt Conference) hadn’t beaten South Alabama since Feb. 2, 2011. The made 12s for the fifth time in program history and the first time since 2003. The program record is 13.

Chastity Gooch led the way with 22 points, eight rebounds and four assists in just 27 minutes, while Bianca McGee made five 3s for 17 points. Kendall Noble finished with 12 points, seven steals, five rebounds and five assists.

WKU is off until hosting Louisiana-Monroe at 2 p.m. Feb. 22.

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

MICHELLE CLARK-HEARD

Finally beating South Al: “You know that saying, ‘Get the monkey off your back?’ I’m just happy for the girls, just the way they came out of the locker room ready to play. I’m just very fortunate and blessed to get to coach such a great group. To be able to finally beat them – they’ve been a thorn in our side since I got here.”

Making 12s with a lot of assists: “We had 21 assists to 11 turnovers. Any coach will tell you that’s an unbelievable number, and it’s awesome. The biggest thing I was excited about was they were having fun. We put two back-to-back games together, where they were able to come out on the floor and play hard with energy and have fun.”

Lull to start second half: “It’s hard when you’re up 30, and you’re trying to get them out of the locker room still motivated and pumped. We went on that little stretch there for three, three and a half minutes, but then we came back and guarded and made some more shots. That’s what good teams do.”

McGee’s game: “She’s been really working in practice. Her shot hasn’t been falling the way it normally had. She’s been working. She’s been in the gym extra, she’s been shooting. She always says to me, ‘Coach, when it’s time to fall, it’s going to fall.’ She never got down on herself.”

More on McGee: “If you’re a shooter, and the first one falls for you or you get in that rhythm, that’s how Bianca plays. She took great shots tonight. There were a couple that were quick that I told her, but she took great shots within our offense. Everybody’s looking for her. That’s how you get 21 assists.”

Noble’s play: “They were telling me to get her out of the game, and I was wondering when was it going to be the right time, because she does so much for us, and it’s on both ends. She’s very smart and savvy. She knows the basketball game. She can pass it. She’s really a unique player because she’s very deceiving. She has great hands … and I think she kind of lulls you to sleep before she goes to get it. She’s been huge for us.”

Last two wins: “This team is growing up. To put these two games back-to-back – to play as well as we did at home – is showing us that they’re growing up.”

Getting Gooch some rest again: “We we don’t play this week until the weekend, so they’ll get a chance to get their legs up under them and get some rest. She’s been playing a ton of minutes, and she’s going to have to continue to play a ton, but it’s been great.”

BIANCA MCGEE

On making 12 3s as a team: “It was real exciting. Women don’t have many people dunking, so 3-pointers is what gets the crowd excited for us. When we hit 12 of them, it was real fun. Fun to do, fun to see.”

Last two wins: “No one wants to lose, let alone three. Coming off a three-game losing streak, we just got in the gym, practiced hard and listened to what the coaches said. We executed defensively first and had fun on offense, and it worked out well for us.”

KENDALL NOBLE

Beating South Al: “We owed them one. Chaney is the only person on the team who had beat them. We needed a win. They killed us at South Alabama. We had a really bad game, so we owed them a good beating like that.”

Making all the 3s: “It was real fun. It’s always fun when everybody is getting involved, and it’s always fun when you’re knocking down 3s, too. We were just passing the ball and getting open looks, and everybody was being pretty confident.”

13 steals in last two games: “I just try to be active, keep my hands up. I know I have long arms, and people throw me the ball pretty much sometimes. Getting steals and getting easy transition baskets for everybody helps everybody’s confidence.”

Lady Toppers snap three-game slide with 93-66 win over Troy

Instead of another flat performance, the Western Kentucky women’s basketball team just plain flattened Troy on Wednesday night.

The Lady Toppers (15-8 overall, 7-5 Sun Belt Conference) had five players score in double figures, snapping a three-game losing streak with a convincing 93-66 win at E.A. Diddle Arena.

Redshirt freshman guard Kendall Noble paved the way with 26 points, eight rebounds, six steals and five assists.

Junior forward Chastity Gooch had 22 points and nine rebounds, and sophomore guard Micah Jones added 17 points and six assists with no turnovers. Sophomore forward Jalynn McClain (10 points, eight rebounds) and senior guard Bianca McGee (10 points) also hit double figures.

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

MICHELLE CLARK-HEARD

On snapping losing streak: “We played with a lot of energy. Talked to them before we left the locker room about just playing hard and having fun, and I think that’s what we did. I’m proud of the first five that stepped on the floor, because I talked to them about setting the tone.”

Improved rebounding: “I was really proud of this group. We’ve been on them since we got off the road trip, and I think the biggest thing that stuck out to us as a staff at halftime was rebounding – offensive rebounds and going to the boards.”

Defending Troy’s Joanna Harden: “Harden, she’s not fourth in the country in scoring for no reason. I was proud of our girls because she only had two free throws in the first half. There toward the end she started scoring, but we were up 20 points. I’m proud we followed the game plan we needed to, which was making sure Harden didn’t come out of the gate and get some points early.”

Importance of win like this after three losses: “It’s important for the team. They never faltered. This is a resilient group. I love coaching them. I’m always on them and challenging them, but a day like today, I’m super happy for them since they came in and let the game come to them.”

Gooch setting tone early: “Chastity is a joy to coach because she’s very coachable. You can talk to her about anything, and she’ll try her best to do whatever. I’m happy for her that she did what she did, and she only played 24 minutes. And that’s important.”

KENDALL NOBLE

Needing a big win: “I think we needed it really bad. We came out and had a lot of energy. At Little Rock, we were completely dead and didn’t play hard at all. A game like this boosts our confidence, gives us energy, and it should help us get through the rest of the season.”

Coming out flat last few games: “It’s disappointing because we had three losses that we could have fixed easily just by having energy, rebounding and playing hard. I’m glad we figured it out. We know what it takes to win now.”

MICAH JONES

Shutting down Harden in first half: “That was our focus. She kind of runs their team. If you stop her, they look to other players. Not that they can’t step up, but she’s kind of their go-to, and I feel like that’s why they couldn’t get going in the first half.”

Improved rebounding: “That’s what happen when you rebound. You win big. That’s what we were lacking on the road, and that’s why we got beat. I’m glad we stepped up tonight.”