WKU women's basketball releases schedule

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The Western Kentucky women's basketball program released its 2017-18 schedule Thursday, a slate that features 12 regular-season dates inside E.A. Diddle Arena and marquee matchups against Notre Dame, Indiana, Missouri and either Iowa or Quinnipiac.

The Lady Toppers return two of their top three scorers (Tashia Brown and Ivy Brown) from their 2016-17 campaign that saw the team sweep both the regular season and Conference USA tournament championships. WKU posted a 27-7 record, its third consecutive season with at least 27 victories, and squared off against Ohio State in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament in Lexington.

Over the last three seasons, WKU has 84 total wins, the most by any CUSA team in a three-year span in conference history.

In addition to Tashia and Ivy Brown, the Lady Toppers also return junior Sidnee Bopp, who posted one of the finest postseason performances in recent memory for WKU, and sophomore Whitney Creech, who became WKU’s first CUSA freshman of the week honoree since the 2014-15 season last year. Six newcomers will also be immediately eligible for WKU, including freshmen Terri Smith, Nichel Tampa and Sherry Porter.

Western will kick off its campaign with an exhibition against Union inside Diddle Arena on Nov. 2 and will begin the regular season one week later in a tournament hosted by Iowa. The Lady Toppers will battle Missouri in their opener Nov. 10 before squaring off against the winner of Iowa and Quinnipiac on Nov. 11.

Quinnipiac reached the Sweet 16 in the 2017 NCAA Tournament as a No. 12 seed, defeating Marquette and Miami (Fla.) before falling against eventual national champion South Carolina.

The Lady Toppers will open their regular season home schedule when they host perennial power Notre Dame on Nov. 14. The Fighting Irish have reached the Sweet 16 in eight consecutive seasons and have finished as the national runners-up four times over that span.

Following that marquee home matchup, WKU will go back on the road for the second half of its home-and-home series at Indiana on Nov. 17 before traveling to Atlanta for Georgia State’s in-season tournament. The Lady Toppers are set to battle Mercer (Nov. 24) and the host Panthers (Nov. 26) at the event.

WKU will briefly return home for a date against Evansville inside Diddle Arena on Nov. 30. The Lady Toppers will face Southern Illinois on the road Dec. 10 before a quick turnaround against Mississippi Valley State in Diddle on Dec. 12.

The Lady Toppers will round out their nonconference schedule with a third in-season tournament in West Palm Beach, Fla., taking on Stetson and Toledo on Dec. 16 and 17, respectively. WKU will remain on the road following that tournament to face Ball State in Muncie, Ind., on Dec. 21 and will conclude nonconference play inside Diddle Arena on Dec. 29 against Lee University.

To begin CUSA play, WKU will battle archrival Middle Tennessee on Jan. 4 inside Diddle Arena. The rivalry will be renewed in Murfreesboro, Tenn., on Feb. 15.

WKU will continue its opening three-game homestand in CUSA play against Southern Mississippi (Jan. 6) and Florida International (Jan. 11), and will open road conference play Jan. 13 at Alabama-Bimringham.

In home battles during conference play, WKU will welcome Texas San Antonio (Jan. 18), Florida Atlantic (Feb. 3), Old Dominion (Feb. 8), Marshall (Feb. 17) and Charlotte (Feb. 23) to Diddle Arena, and will go on the road to square off against Marshall (Jan. 21), North Texas (Jan. 26), Louisiana Tech (Jan. 28), Rice (Feb. 10), Southern Miss (March 1) and UTEP (March 3).