The Lady Toppers’ explosive trio has gotten most of the publicity this season, but guards Chaney Means and Ileana Johnson got into the act Wednesday night.
The Western Kentucky duo combined for 17 points in 40 total minutes, taking some pressure off Alexis Govan, Chastity Gooch and Bianca McGee in a 75-64 win over Louisiana-Lafayette at E.A. Diddle Arena.
“I was rotating a lot of different people in because I was trying to find a combination that would give us some energy and excitement on the floor,” WKU coach Michelle Clark-Heard said. “That’s what we’re known for. That’s what we do, and that’s what we bring, and we were a little flat.”
Johnson, a sophomore, scored a career-high eight points in a season-high 20 minutes, including six points in the first half. She netted all four of her free-throw attempts.
“Ileana was huge for us in the first half,” Heard said. “Since the break, Ileana has done an unbelievable job, just coming in practice and getting better. She’s probably one of the quickest guards we have in getting the ball up the court, and she hit some open shots tonight.”
Means, a junior, totaled nine points, four rebounds and two steals.
She made two 3s late in the first half and had a decisive steal and layup during WKU’s second-half run.
“Chaney’s like our X-factor,” Heard said. “Every time we play, she’s doing something great. She gets a charge or makes a big basket. That’s what she does for this team, and that’s why she’s so crucial for this team.”
Lady Tops handle
ULL’s hot shooting
Last time WKU’s opponent got hot from behind the arc, Vanderbilt made its first 11 shots of the second half Dec. 4 to overcome a halftime deficit.
Govan remembers it well.
“I think Vanderbilt taught us a lesson about how teams are going to make their run, but we can’t stop,” she said. “They knocked down shots, and then we came back and made some big ones and got some stops.”
ULL made 10 of 20 3-pointers Wednesday night, including six of 11 by freshman guard Sylvana Okde. It was the most made 3s allowed by WKU this season, besting Illinois State’s nine Nov. 24.
The Lady Tops entered the game ranked second in the Sun Belt Conference and 28th in the nation in 3-point defense.
“I think they shot the ball well, but we didn’t guard the way we should in the first half,” Heard said. “We let them get some good, open looks, but when we switched up our defenses and tried to correct what we were doing, I think it helped out a lot.”
Gooch’s streak of nine straight double-doubles was halted when the sophomore forward was forced to the bench with four fouls with 14:57 to play.
The Franklin native finished with five points and 10 rebounds in 30 minutes and has 15 double-doubles in 17 games.
Despite her 10-minute absence, WKU outrebounded ULL 40-30. Govan grabbed a career-high 14 rebounds, securing her second straight double-double – the first two of her career.
“I looked at her and was like, ‘I can’t believe you have four fouls right now,’ ” Govan said. “We just all had to step up and take over, and us guards had to rebound a little more and play more defense because we didn’t have Chastity. We adjusted and stepped up to the challenge.”
NOTES — The Lady Tops have started 7-1 or better in Sun Belt play for the fourth time in the last 15 seasons. ... WKU’s comeback was its largest deficit overcome for a win since rallying from an 11-point hole Nov. 25, 2011, against Samford. ... The announced attendance was 909.