The Western Kentucky women’s basketball team opens the Sun Belt Conference Tournament at 6 p.m. Wednesday against Louisiana-Lafayette at Lakefront Arena in New Orleans.
The second-seeded Lady Toppers (21-8) will play the seventh-seeded Ragin’ Cajuns for the second time in a week as they begin their final conference tournament as a member of the league.
The full bracket is available above.
We met with coach Michelle Clark-Heard and redshirt freshman guard Kendall Noble today to preview Wednesday’s opener and the tournament as a whole.
The BGDN’s Chad Bishop will be in New Orleans all week to cover the men’s and women’s tournaments. He will have in-game updates for both programs, and you can follow him on Twitter here if you don’t already.
Here are Heard and Noble’s comments today:
Reaction to draw: “What we tried to do was make sure we took care of ourselves. Our whole goal was to try and win out, and that’s what we did. We said everything else would have to take care of itself. You have to control what you can control, and that’s what we did. In second place, and this tournament is wide open. Everybody has beaten different people. You just have to go in ready to play.”
Does draw really matter with the way this season has gone around league? “When you look at how we had to go down to the last week to figure out who was going to be first, who was going to be second, I think it shows the parity in the league. At any given time, anyone can get beat. That’s what conference play is all about. It’s a new season for everyone.”
Target on your backs? “We have to embrace it. We have to do what we’ve been doing and make sure we’re confident, and that we clean up some of the things we need to, especially defensively. We’ve played well in these last couple games, but not very well. We turned it over some and did a lot of different things against people’s presses. A lot of people are going to scout that, so we’re going to have to be ready and make sure we’re ready for change-ups.”
Playing ULL again so soon: “It’s tournament time. Somebody was going to have to plan someone that they just played. That’s the way it goes. At the end of the day, I think it helps because the player are very familiar with the players, knowing the scorers and what they can do. But good coaches change up. They make changes when you get to that third game. We played them last year when we went down there, and that was a tough first game for us. They’re going to be excited to play, just like we are.”
Keys against ULL: “I think the biggest thing is we’ll have to stop dribble penetration, because they like to dribble-drive and kick to the shooters. And we’ll have to box out and rebound. They’re small, but they’re athletic and they play so hard. The key for us is to get off to a good start and then make sure we maintain that good start.”
Are players ready? “I think they’re excited. This is an exciting time. A lot of the players were watching a lot of the games that were on – a lot of people winning championships. At this time, that’s what it’s all about.”
How team is playing: “I think we’re playing great right now. We have a lot of confidence, and we know we can play with anybody since we’re on this winning streak. We just have to win three games. It should be a lot easier than winning seven.”
Sun Belt tourney: “Everybody has a fresh start. It’s 0-0. If you lose, you’re done. You have to win to advance, so it’s a new opportunity for everybody.”
Playing ULL: “We have to defend. They killed their 1-3-1 (zone defense). They killed both of our zones, actually. We know we’re going to have to stop them on defense because we let them score way too many points. If we let them score that many again, we’re probably not going to win.”
Does program need NCAA tourney bid to complete turnaround? “I think making the NCAA would be a big statement for the program. We would get seen nationally, and it would be great for coach (Michelle Clark-Heard) and the program. It would probably help recruiting and everything.”