WKU opened up a 17-point halftime lead and never trailed in a 67-56 victory over Southern Miss in the Conference USA Women's Basketball Championship game. The win clinches an automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament for the Lady Toppers; their 19th appearance in program history. WKU has now won two C-USA Championship titles in its three seasons in the league. WKU senior Kendall Noble (5'11''-G) was voted the championship's MVP while teammates Sidnee Bopp (5'6''-G) and Tashia Brown (6'1''-F) joined her on the All-Tournament Team. Southern Miss' Brittanny Dinkins (5'7''-G) poured in 25 points in the loss and was also named to the All-Tournament squad for her performance.
Notable Sidnee Bopp drained four more three-pointers, giving her 12 (tied for third-most in C-USA Championship history) after knocking down a total of 19 through the regular season. WKU saw five players score eight or more points and went 7-for-18 from behind the long line in the victory. The Lady Toppers are now 2-0 all-time in C-USA Championship games against Southern Miss. Dinkins knocked down a season high five three-pointers for Southern Miss, coming one away from tying a C-USA Championship game record. This is the first time in C-USA Women's Basketball Championship history that the eventual champion won every game by double-digits.
WKU Head Coach Michelle Clark-Heard Opening Statement Wow. I'm so thankful to be sitting here and to have the amazing young ladies sitting next to me and the ones in the locker-room. This is a special place to be and every day I'm pushing them to have the opportunities that we have now. We've been through so much and it's because of Micah Jones and Kendall Noble. Kendall told me after we won the regular season that we have three more coach.
On Kendall (Noble) and Micah (Jones) playing on the national stage It's pretty special. This was all I wanted was for a chance for people to see how good this team is. They put a lot of work in. I stay on them and push them and I can't wait for people to see their names pop up. It goes back a long way to us making us relevant again, but I think people know who we are now.
On the last minute I waited until it got to 19 seconds, I didn't know what was going to happen. This is surreal because we had goals all year and I don't know if people know how hard it is to win a regular season and conference championship. That's what makes this team so special and I'm proud of them.
Sidnee Bopp Sophomore Guard On it sinking in No, not really. I'm still trying to process that we just won. It's so much excitement.
On the way you played in the tournament It's overwhelming that we won and that I was able to play like that. I knew I could and like Kendall said, I did it to them in practice and it's nice to be able to do that now in a game.
Kendall Noble Senior Guard On how fitting it is to end your career with a conference title It's only right. We put so much time and effort into this program and to go out on top it means the world to me.
Southern Miss Head Coach Joye Lee-McNelis On the difference in the game 'We got off to a slow start and Western Kentucky shot the cover off of it. We tried different ways to defend them and nothing mattered. That's a true sign of a veteran team, because of the seniors that they have and they've been in this environment. They came in calm, cool and collected and they're a very good basketball team. It kind of shell-shocked us as well as they shot the basketball in the first half. That first half is the half that they killed us. That second half is when we rallied and made runs. We cut it to nine and we don't box out on the other end. We won the other two ball games (in the C-USA Championship) with toughness down the stretch and we didn't have that tonight. We weren't able to execute when we needed to. 'I would say two things: Western Kentucky is a very good basketball team, and our team did not wake up and relax and play with a sense of urgency until the second half and we were too far down to fight and make that comeback.'
On Western Kentucky's Kendall Noble 'She's a player that's going to make plays. When it's crunch time, Kendall has every opportunity to make plays. I don't know Kendall personally, but I think she would be one tough kid. She's going to grind it every day and try hard to be the best.'
On postseason hopes 'Hopefully we'll be able to get to the NIT. We've hosted two rounds in the NIT. We hope to get that opportunity to be in the postseason and play. I think we deserve that and our seniors deserve that. I thought we overachieved. These kids bought in and they worked hard and they made things work when we didn't think they would work.'
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