Bowling Green, Ky. - A 29-4 run early in the game provided all the cushion needed as the Western Kentucky University women's basketball team cruised to a 96-64 exhibition victory over Harding Friday night at Diddle Arena in the first action under new head coach Michelle Clark-Heard.
"I thought the girls did an awesome job of showing the things that we have been working on and what we are trying to do," said Heard. "We really try to emphasis defense. We did a great job in our press defensively, and they were very unselfish with the ball on offense tonight."
Six of the eight Lady Toppers in uniform scored in double figures, led by a game-high 25 points from Alexis Govan. Fellow preseason all-Sun Belt Conference selection Chastity Gooch posted a double-double with 17 points and 15 rebounds, while Micah Jones and Chaney Means added 12 points each. Danay Fothergill and Mariah Sunkett rounded out the double-digit efforts with 11 and 10 points, respectively.
After three early ties, a Gooch three-point play broke a 7-7 tie and sparked a 13-0 WKU run as it was able to open up a 20-7 lead on a Govan jumper with 14:31 to go before halftime. In all, the Lady Toppers held Harding to just one field goal over a nearly 10-minute span, scoring 29 of 33 points to open up a 36-11 lead on a Fothergill three with 8:46 remaining in the half.
Govan, who finished with 14 points in the first half, helped the Lady Toppers stretch their lead to 29 point - 45-16 - with just over six minutes on the clock, but the Lady Bison were able to chip away as Arielle Saunders scored seven straight points for Harding to cut the WKU lead to 49-28 with just under two minutes on the clock. But the Lady Toppers - who shot 60.6 percent from the floor in the first 20 minutes - were able to close the half with five unanswered points, getting a three from Jones with under 30 seconds left to stretch the lead to 54-28 at intermission.
WKU's lead never dipped below 26 points at any time in the second half. The Lady Toppers shot 50 percent from the floor in the final 20 minutes, getting the lead above 30 for the first time on a Jones basket early in the period. The lead grew to as high as 34 points when a Sunkett jumper made it 74-40 with 12:25 to play.
The Lady Toppers also led by 34 when a Gooch jumper extended the lead to 83-49 with just under nine minutes left, but the Lady Bison made one last charge, scoring 13 of the next 17 to cut the lead to 87-62 with 3:59 remaining. WKU would allow Harding to get no closer, however as it stretched the lead back out to 32 points at the final buzzer.
For the game, WKU shot 55.1 percent from the floor, and 53.8 percent from beyond the three-point line. It also scored 52 of its 96 points in the paint, and forced Harding in 23 turnovers.
The Lady Toppers kick off the 2012-13 regular season next Friday (Nov. 9) as they travel to Murray State for a 5:15 p.m. (CDT) tipoff against the Racers. The home opener will take place on Nov. 17 with a 5:30 p.m. matchup against Northern Kentucky in the 30th annual BB&T Classic game.