NEW ORLEANS, La. – WKU overcame a ten point deficit and broke a late 60-60 tie with a Chastity Gooch three-point play to register a 67-61 win over Louisiana-Lafayette in the opening round of the 2014 Sun Belt Conference Championships at Lakefront Arena on Wednesday evening.
Gooch finished with 21 points, 14 rebounds, three assists, two blocks and two steals in 34 minutes, hitting 9-of-18 shots in the win.
WKU trailed for much of the game, not taking its first lead until the 11:30 mark of the second half on a basket from junior Chanell Lockhart, and later erased another five-point deficit to post the win.
Trailing 56-51 following a Louisiana-Lafayette basket with 7:30 remaining, WKU reeled off seven consecutive points to lead 58-56. Gooch hit consecutive baskets and Bria Gaines added another field goal to put WKU up by two. After the teams exchanged baskets and the score was tied at 60-60, Gooch drove from the free throw line and was fouled, getting a three-point play to give WKU its largest lead of the game to that point.
Senior Bianca McGee and sophomore Micah Jones both hit a pair of free throws in the final 20 seconds to secure the win as WKU never led by more than the final margin of six points.
WKU (22-8, 13-5) overcame a double-digit deficit for the fourth time this season to register the win.
Louisiana-Lafayette guard Sylvana Okde gave the Ragin’ Cajuns the hot hand in the opening half, hitting 5-of-6 three-point attempts to register all of her 15 first half points. She opened the game with two three-point field goals to give the Ragin Cajuns early leads.
After trailing by as many as ten points in the first half, WKU nailed three three-point field goals in the final 2:09 of the first half to end the half on a 9-0 run and cut the halftime deficit to one at 33-32. Lockhart, senior Chaney Means and junior Ileana Johnson nailed the three field goals down the stretch to close the gap.
Louisiana-Lafayette (14-16, 7-11) hit 10-of-21 three-point field goals, nearly half of the Ragin Cajuns’ points in the game. Okde finished the game with 21 points, hitting 7-of-11 three-point field goals in the game.
WKU will return to the Lakefront Arena court on Friday at 2:30 p.m. CT to face either No. 3 UALR or No. 6 Troy in the semifinals of the Sun Belt Conference Championships. Head coach Michelle Clark-Heard has led the Lady Toppers to the semifinals of the tournament in each of her first two seasons at WKU.
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