The Western Kentucky women’s basketball team closed out its home schedule with a win Wednesday, beating Louisiana-Lafayette 80-71 at E.A. Diddle Arena.
The Lady Toppers (20-8 overall, 12-5 Sun Belt Conference) won their sixth straight game and clinched their second season with at least 20 wins in as many years under coach Michelle Clark-Heard.
Kendall Noble and Chastity Gooch each had 17 points to lead WKU. The Lady Tops honored seniors Chaney Means and Bianca McGee before the game.
WKU finishes its regular season at 11 a.m. Saturday at Georgia State. It can clinch the No. 2 seed in the Sun Belt Conference Tournament with a win.
Here are postgame comments from McGee, Gooch, Noble and Heard:
Getting a win, although not as dominant as recent games: “To put up six games in a row, no matter how many points you win by, that’s a big deal, especially in conference play. I’m just super-proud of this group. We keep getting better and better. Maybe a month and a half ago, if they’d made a run like that, I don’t know what would’ve happened with this team. But we kept fighting. I’m glad we could go out for a win for Chaney and Bianca, and just for the fans.”
On Louisiana-Lafayette: “They can shoot it. They’re quick, they rebound. You saw it. They fought to the end, and they never give up. When you have kids that play that hard with the way they compete, I think he’s always going to have a chance to win.”
ULL coming back late: “We made some lazy passes, and we knew with the way that they played, they like to get their hands on the ball a lot. Just protect the ball, be strong and get the ball inbounds.”
Saturday at Georgia State, win clinches No. 2 seed: “Once had our meeting after the Arkansas trip, our whole goal was one game at a time, take care of business and control the things we can control. Up to these six games, we did that. That’s what we’ll focus on when we go to Georgia State. … It’s going to be hard. It’s hard to win on people’s floor.”
Protecting home court: “We lost to Texas State, Arkansas State and Louisville. That’s protecting your home court. I’m really excited for our group for that.”
On Georgia State: “I think they have all the pieces. They have a big player who’s really, really good. They have a point guard who’s super-quick, and they have kids who can shoot it on the wing. It’s going to be a test for us. … They’re not going to forget how we played against them when they came up here.”
What Crystal Kelly told team before the game: “She told them that she was really excited to have a chance to be back, that she had heard a lot about how well they were playing and was excited to see them play – that Western is a special place to her. It was pretty awesome to see the kids’ face. … I told her I was really thankful and happy, because she’s one of the most decorated players who ever played here. For her to come to our last game means a lot.”
Winning 20 games in her first two seasons: “If you had told me when I first took this job that we’d have two seasons with 20 wins back to back, I probably would have looked at you like you were crazy. When we got into the first couple of months of the season my first year, I knew this was a special group. I’m proud of this staff. When you talk about 20 wins, that’s all of us. We went out and recruited some pieces, and you see all those babies coming along now. You see how Bria’s getting better. You see how Kendall Noble has evolved. You see a different Micah Jones from last year. … I’m just honored and proud that I can be the coach sitting here able to do that.”
Winning on senior night: “It was very special. These girls mean a lot to me. We’ve got so close over these couple of years – oh my gosh, I’m about to cry. To come out and get a win with them and celebrate this six-game run we’ve got going on, it’s just amazing.”
On Bianca McGee: “She’s taught us how to win. Bianca’s a winner. She’s always worked hard. She works hard every single day. She pushes everyone. She’s a leader on the court and off the court. She brought everyone together.”
Getting a more difficult win: “Yeah, we didn’t play as good today, but we’ve been playing really good. We’ve been playing defense, getting stops, getting easy baskets in transition. We’ve just got to work to get better every single day.”
Saturday at Georgia State: “We definitely want to close it out with a win. A dominant win would be great, but a win’s a win. We need to come ready Saturday to play, play some defense, get some stops and win the ballgame.”
On senior Chaney Means: “Chaney’s been a huge, huge factor to this team. She’s been through a lot for this team. She went through the two years to a big turnaround. This means a lot to Chaney. I want this for her.”
What could’ve been better: “Defense. We could’ve focused a lot more on defense this game. At the end, you could tell.”
Getting 20 wins in each of Heard’s first two seasons: “My first year here, I would’ve never thought we’d have the opportunity we have today. It’s unbelievable, and I’m very happy to be a part of this.”