The 51st season of Lady Topper Basketball - and the first under new head coach Michelle Clark-Heard - gets underway Friday at 5:15 p.m. (CST) when WKU visits Murray State. The Lady Toppers were impressive last Friday evening in their only exhibition game of the season, knocking off Harding University 96-64.
Friday's game will be the 44th all-time meeting between the Lady Toppers and Racers, with WKU holding a 33-10 advantage. It has won 12 straight games in the series, including each of the last three games played in Murray.
Lady Topper Tip-Off
This is the second time the Lady Toppers have opened the regular season on Nov. 9 - the earliest start date in program history. WKU also opened the 2007-08 regular season on Nov. 9, defeating East Tennessee State 90-73 in the first round of the Preseason WNIT.
WKU has opened the regular season away from home just four times since 2000. Two of those were neutral site games in 2000 against Pepperdine in Hawaii (L, 81-88) and 2001 against UC Santa Barbara at Stanford (L, 78-90). The only two games played on the opposition's home floor in that stretch both came at Louisiana Tech in 2006 (W, 73-60) and 2001 (L, 55-71).
The Lady Toppers bring a 12-game winning streak against Murray State into Friday's contest. That is the second-longest active winning streak for WKU against an instate school. It has won 13 straight against Morehead State. The Lady Toppers and Eagles will face off on Dec. 6 in Morehead.
Lady Toppers Tip Off 51st Season - Another year gets underway on Friday for the Lady Topper Basketball program. Since the Lady Topper program was reestablished in 1973-74, WKU is 30-9 in season openers. That includes a 7-7 record when opening the season away from home. The Lady Toppers are looking to snap a two-game losing skid in season openers, as they fell in the opener of the 2010-11 season at Louisiana Tech, and lost to Towson to start the 2011-12 campaign.
New Era Begins - The Michelle Clark-Heard era of Lady Topper basketball makes its debut Friday night when WKU visits Murray State. A 1990 WKU graduate, Heard was hired as the 15th head coach in program history on March 22, 2012. Heard inherits one of the youngest team in Lady Topper history, and takes over a squad with no seniors and only one returning junior among the 11 players on the roster.
Getting Off On The Right Foot - Historically, the first game under a new head coach has produced a good result for the Lady Toppers. Eight of the previous 14 head coaches in the program's history have started their careers 1-0 at the helm of the program. A loss in that first game has not meant everything, however. Paul Sanderford's first Lady Topper team in 1982-83 lost his first game 90-67 at Mississippi. Sanderford went on to win 385 games over 15 seasons at WKU, leading the program to three Final Fours.
Alexis Goes Big In Exhibition - Sophomore Alexis Govan picked right up where she left off at the end of her freshman season last Friday night in an exhibition win over Harding. The preseason third-team all-Sun Belt pick went 12-for-17 from the floor for a game-high 25 points in just 22 minutes of action against the Lady Bison. She ended last season with double-digit points in three straight games, including 22 points against Middle Tennessee in the regular-season finale and again against ULM in the first round of the conference tournament.
Gooch On The Glass - Fellow preseason all-SBC pick Chastity Gooch also had an impressive exhibition debut last Friday, posting a double-double with 17 points and 15 rebounds against Harding. Gooch did not post a double-double in 30 games during her freshman season, but did have three games with double-figure rebounds - pulling down 11 boards in all three of those games last season. Her efforts helped WKU outrebound Harding 38-30, and drop in 15 second-chance points.
Six Double Up - With just eight players in uniform, WKU was still able to score more points in their exhibition game than it did in an contest during the 2011-12 season. Six of the eight Lady Toppers in uniform reached double figures led by Govan and Gooch's 25 and 17 points, respectively. Two other returners joined the group as Chaney Means dropped in 12 points and Danay Fothergill added 11. Two freshmen rounded out the double-figure group in their Diddle Arena debuts as starting point guard Micah Jones finished with 12 points, while Mariah Sunkett tossed in 10 points off the bench.
Getting Inside - Even with no player over 6-foot-1 on the roster, the Lady Toppers were able to find their way to the rim against Harding. WKU scored 52 of its 96 points in the paint - 54.1 percent of its points. The Lady Toppers also won the battle of the boards against Harding, outrebounding the Lady Bison 38-30.
WKU vs. The OVC - Murray State will be the first of two games this season against teams from the Ohio Valley Conference. WKU will visit Morehead State on Dec 6. The Lady Toppers have won 11 of the last 12 games played against OVC teams dating back to the 2004-05 season.
Freshman Orientation - Of the 11 players on the Lady Topper roster, five are in their first year playing collegiate basketball, and six are in their first season with the Lady Toppers. A large percentage of rookies is nothing new for WKU as last season seven of the 15 players on the roster were freshmen.
Gooch, Govan Named Preseason All-SBC - A pair of Lady Topper sophomores were selected among the top 15 players in the Sun Belt when the league released its preseason all-conference team in October. Both Alexis Govan and Chastity Gooch represented WKU on the all-league third team. Govan is WKU's top returning scorer from a season ago as she dropped in 6.6 points per game to go along with a team-high 58 assists and 42 steals. Gooch ranked among the conference leaders last season averaging 5.6 rebounds per game, while dropping in 6.1 points per contest. WKU joined UALR, Middle Tennessee, Florida International and South Alabama as the only schools in the league with multiple preseason all-conference honorees.
50 Season of Diddle Arena - WKU is celebrating the 50th season of basketball at E.A. Diddle Arena in 2012-13. While Lady Topper Basketball started playing Diddle with the program's reinstatement in 1973-74, the doors to the building officially opened on Dec. 7, 1963 with an 82-60 Hilltopper victory over Vanderbilt. The 2012-13 season is the 40th for Lady Topper Basketball in Diddle. In those first 39 seasons, WKU has posted a 432-100 home record (a .812 winning percentage), and has won double-digit home games 29 times. That includes undefeated home records in 1994-95 (14-0) and 2005-06 (16-0).
Championship Effort - Lady Topper Basketball has been one of the elite programs in all of college basketball - entering the 2012-13 postseason with 830 victories...tied for 12th most in Division I history. WKU has been to 16 NCAA Tournaments and three Final Fours. It also boasts 19 Sun Belt Conference championships - 10 regular-season titles and a league-best nine postseason tournament championships.
Lady Toppers On The Tube - WKU is slated to play eight televised game in 2012-13. Five of those games will be broadcast by the Hilltopper Sports Satellite Network. Road games at ULM, Troy, UALR and FIU, along with a home contest against Arkansas State will be available on HSSN affiliates, as well as on ESPN3. Additionally, WKU's game at Middle Tennessee will be an ESPN3 broadcast, while games at Louisiana-Lafayette and at home against MTSU will be broadcast on the Sun Belt Network.