BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Lady Topper Basketball claimed its second C-USA tournament championship in three years as a member of the league with a 67-56 victory over Southern Miss on Saturday evening inside Legacy Arena, earning WKU’s 19th trip to the NCAA Tournament with the league’s at-large bid.
The Lady Toppers will now wait to hear their name called during the NCAA Selection Show on Monday evening at 6 p.m. (CT). WKU will return to E.A. Diddle Arena on Sunday afternoon at 12:30 p.m. (CT) and all fans are welcome to join the team, while Monday’s selection show party is set to be held at High Tops on the campus of WKU beginning at 5:30 p.m. (CT). All fans are encouraged to attend the party to celebrate with the team.
WKU (27-6) led wire-to-wire against the Golden Eagles (23-10), opening up a lead of as many as 20 points midway through the second quarter before holding off Southern Miss down the stretch. The Lady Toppers knocked down 53.1 percent (17-of-32) of their chances in the first half to open up a 41-24 lead heading into the break.
Tashia Brown led the Lady Toppers with 17 points and was joined in double figures by Kendall Noble (15) and Sidnee Bopp (12). Bopp stayed hot from beyond the arc, knocking down four of her five chances from three-point range. Ivy Brown also approached a double-double on the day with eight points and a game-high 10 rebounds.
Noble, Tashia Brown and Bopp were all named to the 2017 C-USA All-Tournament team for their efforts, and Noble captured C-USA Tournament MVP honors.
Brittanny Dinkins scored a game-high 25 points, 18 of which came in the second half. Dinkins was the only Golden Eagle to reach double figures on the night, while teammate Jayla King approached a double-double with six points and seven boards.
WKU raced out to a 9-0 lead over the first three minutes after five quick points from Kyvin Goodin-Rogers, including an early triple at the 7:53 mark. Southern Miss’ Megan Brown ended the early burst with a layup, but Noble’s three-pointer on the very next possession pushed the Lady Toppers to an early double-digit lead at 12-2.
Southern Miss fired off five unanswered points to cut WKU’s lead in half, but another long run from the Lady Toppers, this time eight straight points keyed by a pair of three-pointers from Bopp less than a minute apart, extended the advantage to 20-7 with 2:09 on the clock.
After WKU’s lead was whittled to 12 points early in the second quarter, the Lady Toppers built their largest advantage of the night on the strength of a 10-2 run. Bopp again played a pivotal role during the stretch, knocking down a pair of three-pointers, while Tashia Brown and Kayla Smith each pitched in a basket.
The Lady Toppers maintained their double-digit edge through the halftime break, carrying a 41-24 lead into the locker room.
Seven unanswered points after the halftime break trimmed the Lady Topper lead to just 12 points, 43-31, but a quick basket from Noble and a three-pointer from Micah Jones rebuilt a 16-point advantage just over one minute later.
The Golden Eagles used another long run of eight straight points, capped by a fastbreak layup from King with 3:16 on the clock, to cut the deficit to single digits at 50-42. Tashia Brown ended the scoring drought with a three-point play with just under three minutes to play in the quarter, and the Lady Toppers maintained their double-digit edge for the remainder of the quarter.
Only twice over the final 10 minutes did Southern Miss cut WKU’s lead to fewer than 10 points as the Lady Toppers claimed their 11th conference tournament championship in program history with the 67-56 victory.
How to Follow the Lady Toppers: For complete information on WKU Lady Topper Basketball, visit WKUSports.com or follow the program via social media @LadyTopperHoops on Twitter, @LadyTopperHoops on Instagram and on Facebook at facebook.com/WKUWomensBasketball.