BOWLING GREEN, Ky. – After engineering the largest single-season win improvement in Sun Belt Conference history a year ago, WKU and second-year head coach Michelle Clark-Heard have released the non-conference schedule for the 2013-14 season.
The non-conference slate is highlighted by the previously announced game with Louisville at E.A. Diddle Arena on Wednesday, November 27, 2013 at 7:00 p.m. CT. Five of the 11 non-conference opponents reached the postseason in 2012-13, including national finalist Louisville, with two teams finishing the year ranked in the top 25 of the RPI.
“We have been able to upgrade our schedule for this season in a way that we think can help prepare us to accomplish many of the goals we have as a program,” said Clark-Heard. “Our schedule served us well in 2012-13 but our players are ready for a new opportunity. We have put together a slate of games for the upcoming season that will challenge us and prepare us for the conference season. We have assembled a group of teams that will help us put together a quality RPI that will put us in a position to be successful for the postseason should our success fall in line with the chance to play in the NCAA Tournament. That is where we want to be and I think this schedule can put us in that position if we got out and produce the results we are capable of on the court.”
In her first year as coach of the Lady Toppers, Clark-Heard engineered one of the nation’s best turnarounds. She led WKU to 13 additional wins over the prior season, setting the Sun Belt Conference record for largest win improvement. She also helped WKU to eight additional conference wins over the prior season, tying the league record. Following the regular season, she was named the 2013 Sun Belt Conference Coach of the Year. The Lady Toppers return all five starters from the 2012-13 squad, including All-America candidates Alexis Govan and Chastity Gooch.
WKU opens the season on Saturday, Nov. 9 against Austin Peay in E.A. Diddle Arena before traveling to Nashville two days later to meet Vanderbilt in Memorial Gymnasium on Monday, Nov. 11. The team then returns home to face Murray State, the first of three in-state foes that travel to E.A. Diddle Arena in 2013-14, on Saturday, Nov. 16.
WKU then takes the road for a pair of games against Southeast Missouri (Tuesday, Nov. 19) and Northern Kentucky (Saturday, Nov. 23) before the highly-anticipated matchup with Louisville.
The Louisville game will mark the first time that former Paul Sanderford assistant coaches Jeff Walz and Clark-Heard have faced off on the hardwood as head coaches. Clark-Heard also served as an assistant coach to Walz at Louisville for five seasons. She helped Walz lead the Cardinals to the national championship game in 2009. Current WKU assistant coach Candyce Bingham was a player on that 2009 Louisville team. The game will mark the first time since the 1999-00 season that WKU has hosted a team that reached the NCAA Final Four in the previous season in E.A. Diddle Arena. WKU has four wins in E.A. Diddle Arena history over teams that reached the NCAA Final Four the previous season including wins over Old Dominion in 1983-84 and twice in 1985-86 in addition to a win over Louisiana Tech in 1994-95.
WKU plays its third straight game against an in-state opponent on Sunday, Dec. 1 against Morehead State at home before a road contest at Ball State in Muncie, Ind. on Saturday, Dec. 7. WKU closes out the home portion of the non-conference schedule on Sunday, Dec. 15 against first-time opponent Jackson State.
The Lady Toppers will then close out non-conference play at the 2013 Puerto Rico Classic at the Coliseo Guillermo Angulo Carolina. WKU will face Belmont on Friday, Dec. 20 before facing off with Georgetown on Saturday, Dec. 21. Both games are schedule to tip at 11:00 am CT.
Prior to the opener with Austin Peay, WKU will also face Glenville State on Tuesday, Oct. 29 and Kentucky Wesleyan on Sunday, Nov. 3 in a pair of exhibition games.