BOWLING GREEN, Ky. — For the first time since Jan. 27, 2005, three Lady Toppers scored 20 or more points in a game as the trio of Chastity Gooch (28), Bianca McGee (23) and Alexis Govan (20) led WKU to an 86-68 victory over Florida Atlantic Saturday afternoon at E.A. Diddle Arena.
The win improved WKU to 13-3 overall and 6-1 in the Sun Belt Conference, keeping the Lady Toppers in a first-place tie with Middle Tennessee atop the East Division standings. FAU dropped to 8-7 and 5-2 in league play.
“We’re excited to get this win against a very good Florida Atlantic team,” said Lady Topper head coach Michelle Clark-Heard. “I felt like we did a lot of things well today — especially things we worked on to get better after the loss at Arkansas State. I’m really proud of this group and the way they responded today.”
The Lady Toppers led by six at intermission, but a quick three by the Owls cut that advantage in half in the opening minute of the second period. Leading by five, a Chaney Means layup at the 17:36 mark sparked a 13-2 run as WKU stretched its lead to 50-34 after a Gooch three-point play with 13:51 remaining.
The advantage grew to 17 with a pair of Govan free throws made the score 58-41 with 11:17 on the clock, but Florida Atlantic chipped away over the next three minutes to cut its deficit down to six (62-56) after a Kimberly Smith three with 7:26 remaining.
After trading baskets, McGee knocked down a three then got a steal and pull-up jumper to push the lead back to 11 points with just under six minutes remaining. The lead remained in double figures the rest of the game, getting as high as 20 points on two occasions in the closing minutes.
The Lady Toppers finished with a season-high 53 second-half points, and also saw 54 of their 86 points on the night come in the paint.
WKU overcame 13 first-half turnovers by shooting 39.5 percent from the floor and outrebounding the Owls by 14 in the first 20 minutes. Neither team led by more than six points in the first period, and it was the Lady Toppers that opened up a 11-5 lead on a Govan layup with 13:57 to play in the half.
Florida Atlantic scored 12 of the next 16 points to tie the game and then take a 17-15 lead on a Chanise Miller layup at the 9:21 mark. The game would be tied four times over the next four minutes before a Gooch jumper at the 4:39 mark sparked a 10-4 WKU run to close out the period as the Lady Toppers took a 33-27 lead into the locker room.
Gooch finished the half with 16 points and seven rebounds — both game-high totals at intermission. McGee and Govan added eight and seven points, respectively, for WKU. Miller paced the Owls with eight points in the opening 20 minutes.
Gooch’s 28 points for the game were a career high, while McGee’s 23 were also the most in her short Lady Topper career. Gooch also added a game-high 11 rebounds for her 15th double-double in 16 games this season. Govan also added 10 boards for her first double-double of the year, and also scored her 500th career point. Means finished the day with a career-best seven assists.
Smith paced three Owls in double figures with 18 points, scoring 13 in the second half.
WKU continues its three-game homestand at E.A. Diddle Arena on Wednesday (Jan. 16) when it hosts Louisiana-Lafayette on “Throwback Night” at 7 p.m. The Lady Toppers will be wearing special throwback uniforms modeled after those worn by the 1985 Final Four team. The first 500 fans will also receive a free throwback t-shirt. All tickets to the game are just $1, and Centerplate concessions will also be offering $1 hot dogs, $1 small popcorn and $1 small fountain or can drinks. Tickets are available through the WKU Ticket Office by calling 270-745-5222 or 1-800-5-BIG-RED. Tickets can also be ordered online at www.wkusports.com.