BOWLING GREEN, Ky. — The Western Kentucky University women’s basketball team was able to overcome a furious second-half charge by Louisiana-Monroe, holding on down the stretch for a 65-63 victory over the Warhawks Wednesday night at E.A. Diddle Arena.
The win improved the Lady Toppers to 19-7 on the season and 12-5 in Sun Belt Conference play. ULM dropped to 7-19 and 5-12 in the league. For WKU, that is a 10-win improvement over last year’s 9-21 campaign. It becomes just the ninth team in Sun Belt history to post a 10-win improvement over the previous season, and just the fifth to record seven more league victories than the previous year. The Lady Toppers went 5-11 in conference play in 2011-12.
“We found a way to survive that one. But I’m proud of the heart and intensity of this team,” said Lady Topper head coach Michelle Clark-Heard. “It wasn’t pretty, but at the end of the day this team stayed with it — even when falling behind — and did what it took to find a way to win.”
Leading 35-22 at intermission, WKU’s lead remained in double figures until a Jasmine Shaw jumper at the 15:11 mark sparked a 15-2 ULM run to give the Warhawks their only lead of the game, 46-45, on a Alexar Tugler layup at the 9:48 mark.
The advantage would be short-lived, however, as Alexis Govan answered with a basket on the other end to put WKU back in front and start a 9-0 run that pushed the lead out to 55-47 with 6:19 to play. Govan scored 13 of her game-high 27 points after ULM took the lead.
The Warhawks refused to go away, pulling within two points on four different occasions down the stretch. Leading 65-61 in the closing second, Shaw hit a layup to pull ULM within a pair with five seconds remaining. WKU missed the front end of a one-and-one, but with no timeouts left the Warhawks for forced to take a desperation shot at the buzzer as the Lady Toppers held on for the two-point win.
The Lady Toppers held ULM without a field goal for the first 8:08 of the contest, and opened up a double-digit lead for the first time when a Micah Jones three made it an 18-6 score at the 10:46 mark. Govan — who led all scorers at halftime with 10 points — helped WKU open up its largest lead of the half almost three minutes later when a layup at the 7:50 mark stretched the lead to 24-8.
After starting the game 2-for-18 from field, the Warhawks connected on six of nine shots during a 12-2 run as they trimmed the WKU lead to 26-20 after a layup from Ashleigh Simmons with 3:47 to go before intermission. Simmons paced ULM with eight points in the first half.
WKU responded by scoring nine of the half’s final 11 points, with Bianca McGee knocking down a three in the closing seconds to send the Lady Toppers to the locker room with a 35-22 lead.
Govan’s 27 led a Lady Topper offensive attach that saw nine different players score for the third straight game. Chastity Gooch was the only other Lady Topper in double figures as she posted her 21st double-double of the year with 14 points and 12 rebounds. Simmons paced ULM with 24 points and 17 boards, while Tuglar and Shaw finished with 15 and 13 points, respectively.
WKU will go in search of its 20th win of the season on Saturday, when it visits Louisiana-Lafayette for a 5 p.m. (CST) contest. The Lady Toppers have won at least 20 games 25 times in their history, but have not reached that plateau since the 2009-10 season.