ATLANTA, Ga. – Junior All-America candidate Chastity Gooch and freshman Bria Gaines combined for 44 points and 19 rebounds as WKU won its 21st game of the season in a 79-63 win over Georgia State on Saturday afternoon.
WKU (21-8, 13-5) closed out the regular season with seven consecutive wins, including 6-of-7 coming by at least 16 points. Having won the final seven games of the regular season, WKU will enter the upcoming Sun Belt Conference Championships with seven consecutive wins, the longest streak entering the conference championships since the 2005-06 season when WKU had an 11-game streak entering league tournament play. It is one of just four times in program history that WKU has entered the postseason with seven consecutive wins or more. WKU had an eight-game streak in 1986-87 and 11-game streaks in 2002-03 and 2005-06.
Gaines finished with 21 points and 10 rebounds in just 20 minutes of play. She hit 8-of-17 shots for the game to post a career high in scoring. It was her third double-double of her career and first 20-point game of her career. Gooch had 23 points and nine rebounds, hitting 10-of-16 shots in the game.
The Lady Toppers fell behind 7-0 in the opening 90 seconds and trailed by as many as eight points in the first half before fighting back to tie the game at halftime at 33. Trailing 20-12 following back-to-back baskets by Georgia State with just over 8:30 left in the first half, WKU reeled off 11 straight points to take their first lead of the game at 21-20 and eventually 23-20. Gaines was a key component of the WKU run, getting two field goals and a pair of free throws during the 11-0 spurt. It was part of her 13 point, seven rebound performance in just 10 minutes in the opening half.
WKU shot just 26.8 percent in the opening half, including 0-of-9 from behind the three-point line.
WKU opened the second half on a flurry as Noble got a basket then followed it up with another steal and a basket. Following a forced 10-second count, Gooch found the basket to give WKU a quick 39-33 lead just 1:01 into the second half, forcing a Georgia State timeout. WKU went on to hold Georgia State scoreless over the first 2:56 of the second half and without a field goal for the first 5:24 of the half in building a six-point lead at 43-37.
Georgia State (12-18, 8-10) fought back and went on to lead by three at 52-49 with 10:05 left before WKU made a big run. WKU ran off 13 straight points to take a 62-52 lead as Kendall Noble started the run with a three-point play and Gaines added four points during the span. WKU extended the run to 19-2 to jump ahead 68-54 with 4:46 remaining following a pair of baskets by Gooch.
WKU finished the game shooting 31-of-74 for the game, a 41.9 percent clip. The team finished 0-of-12 from behind the three-point arc, ending a streak of 77 straight games with a three-point field goal.
WKU forced 28 turnovers, leading to 32 points for the Lady Toppers.
WKU will return to the court on Wednesday, March 12, 2014 when the Lady Toppers begin play in the Sun Belt Conference Championships at Lakefront Arena in New Orleans, La. WKU secured the second seed for the upcoming tournament with the win today and will face the seven seed at 6:00 p.m. CT on Wednesday evening. The opponent is still to be determined based on the result of games later today.
Tickets for the 2014 Men's and Women's Sun Belt Basketball Tournament are also on sale through the WKU Ticket Office. Each ticket book contains eight tickets. There are a total of eight sessions, with sessions 1-6 including two games and session seven being the Women's Championship and session eight being the Men's Championship. The ticket price is $99 and seats are general admission.