The Western Kentucky women’s basketball team’s nonconference schedule for the 2013-14 season is starting to take shape.

The Lady Toppers, who finished 22-11 this season, will have home games next year against Louisville, Murray State and Morehead State, coach Michelle Clark-Heard announced Thursday.

They’ll travel to Ole Miss, Ball State and Northern Kentucky and will play Belmont and Michigan State in a tournament in Puerto Rico. Denver is also competing in that event.

Heard can confirm only nonconference games with completed contracts.

The Louisville game will pit Heard against her mentor and former boss, U of L coach Jeff Walz. The Cardinals are 26-8 this season and play Baylor on Sunday in the NCAA tournament’s Sweet 16.

“With Michelle and I being such good friends, it’s something she thinks can really help her program, and they’ll come to our place the following year,” Walz said last week at WKU’s home WNIT game. “They’re a good basketball team and they’ll be even better next year. We’re going to have our hands full. It’s a game I put on the schedule knowing that we’re going to have to come play. It’s not just a ‘show up and you win.’ ”

The Ole Miss game is the first in a home-and-home series required in the buyout of former WKU athletic director Ross Bjork, who now serves the same position for the Rebels.

The Ball State game will allow WKU guard Bianca McGee and incoming forward Bria Gaines to play close to home in Indiana, Heard said.

“We wanted to make sure we could get some experience against a BCS school or play tough on the road,” Heard said. “Playing Louisville here is a big factor for us and the community. The schedule is really important with the Sun Belt and its RPI. With different people leaving, we wanted to make sure that we put ourselves in a position where we could possibly get an at-large bid even if we didn’t win the conference.”

There will also be some coaching changes for the Lady Tops next season. 

Former WKU player ShaRae Mansfield, who started the season as director of operations and moved to an assistant role after the departure of Curtis Turley, will return to the director of ops job.

Heard plans to hire a third assistant coach, she said, and that process is under way.

— Zach Greenwell covers Western Kentucky University women’s basketball for the Bowling Green Daily News. Follow him at twitter.com/zach_greenwell or visit bgdailynews.com.

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