MURRAY, Ky. - WKU opened the Michelle-Clark Heard era with an 80-69 win over Murray State in the season opener for both squads.
The Lady Toppers (1-0) posted the program's first non-conference win on an opponent's home court since Dec. 28, 2009 when WKU won at George Washington 74-65 and matched the total number of road wins from a season ago.
Sophomore Alexis Govan (San Antonio, Texas) led the Lady Toppers with a career high 26 points while sophomore Chastity Gooch (Franklin, Ky.) had her first career double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds.
"I am just so proud of this group," said Clark-Heard. "They played so hard. We got in foul trouble and they still fought the entire time. We turned the ball over much more than I wanted to, but the energy and understanding of learning how to fight was there. I am really proud of our kids... I told our kids that when we are on a roll, we have to jump on them. Our kids really bought into that. I am really happy for them. I hope they enjoy this win because it is really important for them."
Trailing 10-9 after Murray State's Kyra Watson hit a basket with 13:42 left in the first half, the Lady Toppers went on a 16-0 run to take control early. Gooch scored seven of the first nine points of the run while a Chaney Means (Lawrenceville, Ga.) three-pointer and baskets by Govan helped sustain the run. The run extended to 25-7 over a 10:03 period during the first half, capped by a Govan three-point play.
The Lady Toppers held Murray State (0-1) to just 25.8 percent shooting in the opening half and had a 26-20 advantage in the opening period on the boards. The Lady Toppers forced 13 turnovers in the opening period on their way to their first double-digit halftime lead in a game since Jan. 7, 2012 against Troy.
The Lady Toppers extended their halftime lead to as many as 23 points in the second half at 53-30 with 13:56 left in the second half following a Jalynn McClain (Jeffersonville, Ind.) basket. Murray State then answered with an 18-4 run over the next 4:39 cut the lead to nine at 57-48.
Despite losing Gooch and Means in the final ten minutes when each obtained their fifth foul of the game, the Lady Toppers were able to maintain the lead and post the win.
WKU's 80 points were the first time WKU has surpassed the 80-point mark since the 2010-11 season.
For the game, WKU held the Racers to just 33.3 percent shooting from the field and 1-of-13 from behind the three-point line. WKU shot 46.9 percent and outrebounded Murray State 49-46.
"It was an emotional day for me," said Clark-Heard. "I am so proud to be the head coach at Western Kentucky University. I am really excited that we were able to get our first win on the road."