Sun Belt Conference Women's Basketball news and notes

From the Sun Belt Conference

Week Ten Sun Belt Conference Women's Basketball Player of the Week

Alexis Govan (Western Kentucky, Sophomore, Guard)
WKU sophomore Alexis Govan continues to lead WKU as the Lady Toppers have already surpassed their win total from a year ago, and are off to a 5-1 start in conference play. Govan averaged 21 points and shot 53.9 percent from the field in the five games over the holiday break, helping WKU improve to 12-3. Govan was also instrumental in helping WKU win the Wright State Invitational before Christmas – its first in-season invitational tournament title since 1997-98. Govan put together a career effort in the final game of 2012, dropping in 40 points on 16-for-20 shooting in a home win over North Texas on Dec. 29. She became the fifth player in the nation this season to record a 40-point game, and fell just two points shy of equaling both the WKU and Diddle Arena record for points in a game (Crystal Kelly scored 42 against ULM on Feb. 23, 2008). It was just the fourth 40-point game in Lady Topper histo ry.

Previous Players of the Week
11.13 - Ebony Rowe (Middle Tennessee, Junior, Forward)
11.20 - Chastity Gooch (Western Kentucky, Sophomore, Forward)
11.27 - Jerica Coley (FIU, Junior, Guard)
12.04 - Alexis Govan (Western Kentucky, Sophomore, Guard)
12.11 - Ebony Rowe (Middle Tennessee, Junior, Forward)
12.18 - Jerica Coley (FIU, Junior, Guard)

Around the Sun Belt Conference
Florida Atlantic stands as the only remaining undefeated Sun Belt Conference women's basketball program and enters the week on a three-game winning streak.

The Owls (8-5, 5-0 SBC) are coming off a 35-point win over Louisiana-Lafayette (7-8, 1-5 SBC) in their last outing. They will be put to the test this week as they take on the only two one-loss teams in Middle Tennessee (9-5, 4-1 SBC) and WKU (12-3, 5-1 SBC) both on the road.

Redshirt-junior forward Chenise Miller paces the FAU offense with 14.6 points per game and leads the league in blocks with 2.2 per contest. Redshirt-senior guard Breana Turner and junior Takia Brooks are also big contributors with 12.2 and 11.1 points per game, respectively.

The Blue Raiders enter Wednesday's contest versus FAU on a three-game winning streak. A pair of big runs gave MT the 60-39 edge over South Alabama (9-6, 2-4 SBC) when it last took the court on Saturday. The win gave head coach Rick Insell his 183rd victory, surpassing the previous record of 182 set by Lewis Bivens in 1997 to become the all-time wins leader.

An efficient scoring offense, led by junior forward Ebone Rowe, has been one of the strengths for the Blue Raiders so far this season. Rowe is second in the SBC with 20.8 points per game. She also ranks first in the SBC in field goal percentage (.544), offensive rebounds (5.6 r/g) and minutes player (39.8 m/g).

Senior guard Kortni Jones and senior forward Elie Icelyn aid the attack with 13.7 and 13.5 points per game, respectively.  Jones also leads the league with 4.5 assists per game and a 1.3 assist:turnover ratio.
MT will close out the week with a road game at Louisiana-Monroe (2-12, 0-5 SBC) at 7 p.m. on Saturday.  Juniors Jasmine Shaw and Alexar Tugler each average 9.6 points per game to lead the Warhawks.

WKU is a half-game out of first in the SBC East Division and is looking to rebound after a 63-58 defeat at Arkansas State (6-9, 3-3 SBC) on Sunday. The Lady Toppers have the week off as they will prepare for their weekend showdown against FAU.

Sophomore guard Alexis Govan pours in 19.5 points per game to lead the WKU offense. Sophomore forward Chastity Gooch cleans up the glass and leads the league with 11.4 rebounds per game to go along with her 16.7 points per game. Gooch and Rowe are the only two players in the SBC who average a double-double per contest.

UALR (11-3, 4-2 SBC) leads the way in the SBC West Division with a half-game lead over North Texas (4-10, 3-2 SBC). Each team is coming off a win as UALR downed Troy (3-11, 0-5 SBC) 71-50 and the Mean Green cruised past the Warhawks 79-51 in Saturday's action.

UALR has limited teams to just 53.6 points per game this season, best in the SBC to go along with its +12.9 scoring margin. Taylor Gault leads the team in scoring with 16.7 points per game which ranks top-5 in the conference.

Check out throughout the week for updated SBC basketball news, stats and scores.

Recent Results

January 2 (Wednesday)
FIU 70, Florida A&M 69
Louisiana-Lafayette 44, Florida Atlantic 79
Troy 71, North Texas 87
Middle Tennessee 72, Arkansas State 70

January 3 (Thursday)
South Alabama 55, Louisiana-Monroe 45
Western Kentucky 78, UALR 69

January 5 (Saturday)
Louisiana-Lafayette 47, FIU 63
Louisiana-Monroe 51, North Texas 79
Middle Tennessee 60, South Alabama 39
UALR 71, Troy 50

January 6 (Sunday)
Western Kentucky 58, Arkansas State 63

Upcoming Games

January 9 (Wednesday)
South Alabama at Louisiana-Lafayette - 7:00 PM
Florida Atlantic at Middle Tennessee - 7:00 PM
North Texas at UALR - 7:00 PM
FIU at Arkansas State - 7:05 PM

January 10 (Thursday)
Louisiana-Monroe at Troy - 5:15 PM

January 12 (Saturday)
Middle Tennessee at Louisiana-Monroe - 2:00 PM
Florida Atlantic at Western Kentucky - 4:00 PM
FIU at UALR - 4:30 PM
South Alabama at North Texas - 5:00 PM
Arkansas State at Louisiana-Lafayette - 5:00 PM

Team News and Notes

UALR Trojans
UALR head coach Joe Foley became just the eighth head coach to hit the century mark in Sun Belt Conference victories when UALR upended Troy 71-50 Saturday (Jan. 5). In the game, freshman Morgan Bolton scored a career-best 10 points. In fact, in a 2:16 stretch in the second half, she had more points (8) than her previous game-best of five. Freshman Carolee Dillard made her first career start and responded with a season-best 12 boards against Troy. With Troy being one of the highest scoring teams in the country, UALR has now held Troy to the two lowest scoring halves and games for the season. UALR held Troy to 22 points in the first half in Little Rock Nov. 29 and 17 in the second half this Saturday. Troy was held to 52 in the first contest and 50 on Saturday. The next lowest output for Troy this season is 60 at Mississippi State. Holding T roy to 50 points in the win, UALR is now 101-5 under Foley when giving up 50 or less, including winning 71-of-72. UALR has lost twice this season when giving up 78 points, including to Western Kentucky Thursday (Jan. 3)  78-69. The Trojans are 3-34 when giving up 70 or more. With a halftime deficit against Troy, UALR has now been trailing at half three times this season. They are 2-1 in said contests.

Arkansas State Red Wolves
Arkansas State improved to 5-9 and 3-3 in Sun Belt Conference play with a 63-58 victory over Western Kentucky on Sunday afternoon. The win came after a disappointing 72-70 loss to Middle Tennessee on Jan. 2. Against WKU, sophomore guard Hanan Qedan hit two free throws with 2.1 seconds remaining to secure the victory for A-State. Qedan enjoyed a career week as well. She scored 22 points, shattering her previous career high of 12, against Middle Tennessee and also knocked down a career high nine free throws in the game. She also tied a career with three, 3-pointers in the game. She added 15 points and three, 3-pointers in the win against the Lady Toppers. Ashley Olvera scored 15 points against Western Kentucky, one shy of her season high. She went 6-of-8 from the field, including a 3-pointers and 2-for-2 afternoon from the free throw line. Senior Andi Watson did not play in the loss to Middle Tennessee on Jan. 2, which was the first time in 49 games in which she had not played, a streak that dated back to her sophomore season. ASU tied a season high with seven 3-pointers against Middle Tennessee on Jan. 2. The squad also set a new season high with a .583, 3-point field goal percentage in the game. The Red Wolves 3-point defense has been outstanding this season and has allowed opponents to knock down just 24.3 percent of the 3-pointers it has taken. That clip is 20th best in the nation. ASU shot a season high 59.6 percent from the field against Louisiana-Lafayette on Dec. 22. That mark missed the all-time record by just 3.6 percentage points, which was set last season against UT-Martin. A-State shot 64.3 percent from the field against the Ragin' Cajuns in the second half, which was its high field goal percentage in a half this year. The game also marked the third time the Red Wolves had shot over 50 percent in a game this season. ASU is 2-1 in games it shoots over 50 percent, with its only l oss coming at Florida Atlantic. The Red Wolves finished with seasons highs in points, field goal percentage and field goals made against ULL. ASU recently had a four-game home winning streak snapped with its loss to Middle Tennessee.

Florida Atlantic Owls
Florida Atlantic stands in first place in the Sun Belt Conference and is the league's lone unbeaten team in conference play at 5-0. The 5-0 conference start matches the best league start since the 1999-2000 season when it won five consecutive games in the Atlantic Sun Conference. The Owls won three games during the holidays, including two road triumphs. The team earned an 81-80 at Troy behind Latavia Dempsey's free throw with 1.2 seconds left. Then, the Owls defeated ULM 82-72 and picked up a 79-44 home win over Louisiana. Dempsey paced the offensive attack with career high scoring performances against ULM and Louisiana. She scored 19 points on a perfect 5-for-5 shooting on three-point field goals against Louisiana. Dempsey had 18 points, including 16 points in the second half at ULM. Junior forward Chenise Miller leads three double-figure scorers at 14.6 points and 7.2 rebounds per game. She also has recorded 28 blocks. Senior guard Breana Turner is scoring 12.2 points, while junior guard Takia Brooks scores at an 11.1 points per outing. FAU stands 8-5 on the season and travels to Middle Tennessee on Wednesday, January 9 at 8 p.m. before battling Western Kentucky on Saturday, January 12 at 6 p.m.

FIU Panthers
Since Dec. 1, 2012, FIU owns a record of 7-1, missing out on a perfect 8-0 mark by two points as the Panthers' only loss in that time period was a 65-63 setback to ACC power Georgia Tech (12/30/12). Junior Jerica Coley has scored 1,624 career points, a mark which ranks fifth all-time at FIU. Coley, who has scored in double-figures in 13 of 14 contests this season and in 70 of 80 career games, leads the Sun Belt Conference and ranks third in the country in scoring (23.5 ppg). FIU leads the SBC and ranks among the top-10 in the country in free throw percentage as the Panthers have converted 174-of-226 (.770) attempts from the charity stripe this season. Individually, junior Jerica Coley ranks atop the league in free throw percentage (74-of-86, .860). FIU leads the SBC in rebounding margin (+8.9), a mark which ranks among the top-30 in the country. Junior Marita Davydova leads the Panthers and ranks among the top five in the conference in r ebounding (8.6 rpg). The Panthers have had a player record a double-double in two-straight contests, as junior Jerica Coley posted her first double-double of the season and the eighth of her career (16 points, 15 rebounds) vs. Louisiana (1/5/12) and junior Marita Davydova registered her fifth-career double-double (11 points, 11 rebounds) at Florida A&M (1/2/13). This past Saturday's game versus Arkansas State (1/5/12) marked the 100th-career contest for senior Carmen Miloglav. Junior Finda Mansare is also approaching the 100-career game mark, as she has appeared in 94 contests in a Panther uniform. Head Coach Cindy Russo's 679 career victories rank ninth among active Division I coaches and 16th on the all-time winningest coaches list. When FIU defeated Sun Belt Conference rival Middle Tennessee (12/20/12) in Murfreesboro, Tenn., the Panthers snapped the Blue Raiders' home win streak of 14 games as well as MT's regular season SBC home win streak of 17 games. The victory marked FIU's second-ever at the Murphy Center, and the Panthers' first since the 2001-02 season.

Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns
The Ragin' Cajuns close out January by playing four of the next six games at home, starting with the South Alabama-Arkansas State homestand this week…Louisiana is 5-2 at home in Garry Brodhead's inaugural season (4-2 Earl K. Long Gym/1-0 Cajundome)…The Cajuns have held six of seven opponents below 60 points in home contests…The Cajuns have held opponents to 36.9 percent shooting and forced 25.4 turnovers per game on their home floor…The South Alabama game on Wednesday marks the first home game of the 2013 portion of the season and first at Earl K. Long Gym since the Dec. 17 UC Riverside contest…The meeting with Arkansas State marks the completion of the first home-and-home with a Sun Belt opponent this season (ASU won 77-53 on Dec. 22 in Jonesboro) as part of the new double round-robin format…In the last home outing, the Cajuns bested two-time defending Sun Belt c hampion UALR 56-54 in double overtime at the Cajundome (Dec. 29)…In the Florida trip finale at FIU on Saturday, Garry Brodhead started the combination of Brandi Schambough, Robbie Brown, Kia Wilridge, Ashley Benjamin and Jasmin Mills, a unit that has opened three straight games for the Cajuns…Wilridge and Benjamin made their team-high 13th start…Keke Veal finished as the team's leading scorer for the fourth time in her rookie campaign, tallying 14 in the contest with FIU…Veal led Louisiana in scoring in both games of the Florida swing, finishing the trip with an average of 12.0 points per game…The loss to FIU marked a second straight defeat for UL, marking the first time the team suffered consecutive defeats since a three-game losing streak Nov. 16-24…At the halfway point of the season, the Ragin' Cajuns have already equaled their win total from last season (7-23)…The Ragin' Cajuns lead the Sun Belt and rank 26th nationally in steals per game….The Ragin' Cajuns are undefeated (6-0) when holding opponents below 40 percent shooting (held UALR to a season-low 31.7 percent (20-of-63)…The Ragin' Cajuns are off to a 2-0 mark in overtime contests under Garry Brodhead…In both games, UL trailed at half and a Brandi Schambough trey was the difference…Sylvana Okde ranks Top 15 in the Sun Belt in scoring (11. 2 ppg) and leads the league averaging 2.5 three-point field goals made per game…Okde is on pace to make 76 three-point baskets, a tally that would land in the program's single-season Top 5 ranking…The last Cajuns player to reach 70 three-point makes in a season was Rhonda McCullough (88 in 1989-90).

Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks
The last three games between North Texas and ULM had been decided by three points or less before the 79-51 thrashing the Mean Green handed the Warhawks on Saturday... junior forward Ashleigh Simmons averaged 13.5 points and 7.5 rebounds per game to lead ULM... Simmons is averaging 7.2 rebounds per game for the year, which is seventh in the conference... ULM's bench outscored North Texas' 20-17... freshman forward Alayshia Hunter is averaging 1.1 blocks per game, including four against South Alabama... the 1.1 BPG would be seventh in program history...  ULM collected seven blocks against South Alabama on Thursday, the most since Dec. 29. 2011 against WKU... at North Texas, sophomore guard Jae Shin matched her career-high with 14 points and four three-pointers... at #18 Texas on Dec. 11, ULM attempted 41 free throws, it was the first time the squad tallied 40 or more FTs in a single game since Dec. 21, 1999 (W, 66-65 vs. New Orleans)... the Warhawk program is four wins away from 600 all-time victories.. Mona Martin needs six wins for 250 and ULM is four home wins away from 300 inside Fant-Ewing Coliseum.

Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders
Middle Tennessee (9-5, 4-1 Sun Belt) has reeled off three consecutive victories after a rare home loss to FIU on Dec. 20. The home conference loss was just the second ever under Coach Rick Insell, snapping a 37-game win streak. The Blue Raiders used last second baskets to fend off North Texas (66-64) at Murphy Center and collect a road win at Arkansas State (72-70). MT had it much easier at South Alabama, notching a 60-39 victory on Saturday, Jan. 5. With the win over the Lady Jags, head coach Rick Insell became the all-time wins leader for Middle Tennessee women's basketball with his 183rd victory. Insell passed Lewis Bivens who set the mark in 1997. Insell joins current men's head coach Kermit Davis as the all-time winningest coach. Middle Tennessee made elite company to have its current men's and women's coaches as the all-time wins leaders, joining Gonzaga, Sacred Heat and UALR. Junior forward Ebony Rowe inked three double-doubles during the winter break to pace the Raiders. Rowe's 41 double-doubles now sit as the school record, passing the previous mark of 38 set by Priscilla Robinson. Rowe is averaging 20.8 points and 10.6 rebounds in 14 games this year. Kortni Jones and Icelyn Elie each reached 1,000-points during the holiday break. Jones reached the plateau in the win over North Texas, as she scored 21 points. Jones is averaging 13.7 points per game. Elie, a native of Lebanon, reached 1,000 points by totaling 16 at Arkansas State. Elie is boasting 13.5 points per game. Coach Rick Insell has now coached 12 of the 28 members in the 1,000-point club. The Blue Raiders return home to Murphy Center as MT hosts Florida Atlantic on Wednesday, Jan. 9 before traveling to ULM on Saturday, Jan. 12.

North Texas Mean Green
North Texas won its last two home games by a combined margin of victory of 44 points. They are the biggest wins in terms of margin of victory for North Texas since 2007. In addition, North Texas scored a 87 and 79 points, 166 points, which is the most points in back-to-back games since 2010. The Mean Green is 3-2 to after the first five games of Sun Belt Conference play, which matches their record from last season and is the sixth time since joining the league in 2000 that North Texas has been 3-2 in league play after five games. Laura McCoy notched a career-high 20 points in the win over ULM. It is the first time in her career that she has had a 20-point game and it is the third straight game that a player for North Texas has scored 20 points or more. McCoy also moved into a tie for fourth place all-time with 97 career 3-pointers. She needs three more to become only the fourth player in school history with 100 career 3-pointer s. North Texas has had three players score 20 points or more in three straight games. It is the first time the Mean Green has had that happen since the 2008-09 season. The Mean Green allowed a season-low 51 points against ULM. North Texas has forced 20 or more turnovers in a season-best three straight games and had 10 or more steals in a season-best seven straight games.

South Alabama Jaguars
The South Alabama women's basketball team had five games over the last three weeks and registered a 2-3 record in those contest – defeating Arkansas State and Louisiana-Monroe, but falling at Central Florida and to UALR and Middle Tennessee at home. During that five-game stretch, USA held its opponents to 51.2 points per game, but struggled on the offensive end, averaging just 48.2 ppg. One of the top three-point shooting teams in the league, the Jaguars have struggled recently from the arc as they shot 25 percent in the last five games. In its six Sun Belt Conference games, USA has averaged 48.7 ppg and shot just 23.1 percent (27-of-117) from beyond the three-point line. In their nine wins, the Lady Jags are averaging 20 points more per game (66.4) than they are in their six losses (46.3). Despite struggling on the offensive side from long range, the Lady Jags have been outstanding guarding the perimeter shot. They currently lead the nation in three-point field-goal defense, holding opponents to just a .214 percentage from the arc. USA has held opponents to two or fewer treys in nine of their 15 games. Junior forward Ronneka Robertson has ranked as one of the top rebounders in the league this season as she is averaging 7.1 per contest. She has had six of more rebounds in 11 of her last 14 games entering play this week. Over the last three weeks, USA had a stretch in which it held three-straight opponents to 49 points or less – UALR (49), Arkansas State (47) and Louisiana-Monroe (45). It was the first time since the 2009-10 season and just the second in the program's history that USA had achieved the defensive mark. It was also the first time the Lady Jags have ever achieved the feat versus Sun Belt competition. South Alabama has held six opponents to 49 points or less this season. The 12 points for Veronica Cherizol versus Middle Tennessee tied a career-high, also set again st the Blue Raiders in last year's meeting in Mobile. The 39 points versus MTSU were a season-low for the Lady Jags and the fewest points since USA's game against the Blue Raiders in Murfreesboro last season (12/31/11). The 39 points were also the fewest by the program at the Mitchell Center since scoring 39 versus North Texas back on Feb. 25, 2006. USA did manage to rally back and hold ULM to just four-points over the final 8:10 of the game and used a 13-2 run to take the lead for good in its 55-45 win over the Warhawks. After dropping its first three league games, USA rallied back and used an 18-2 second-half run to pick up its first Sun Belt win, defeating Arkansas State (12/29), 53-47 in Mobile. Robertson tied a career-high with 11 rebounds and the Jaguars recorded a season-low eight turnovers. USA held a three-point lead early in the second period over UALR in its SBC home opener, but the Jaguars suffered a nine-minute scoreless stretch and a 13-minute stret ch without a field goal versus the Trojans. At Central Florida, South Alabama held an 18-point lead with a little more than seven minutes to play, but struggled late, surrendering a 21-2 run down the stretch as the Knights rallied to capture a 54-53 victory.

Troy Trojans
The Trojans (3-11, 0-4) dropped a pair of games to Sun Belt West Division opponents at North Texas and at home to UALR. At North Texas, true freshman Ashley Beverly-Kelley scored a game-high 33 points, setting a Troy freshman record during the Trojans Division I era (1993-present). Beverly-Kelley was 6-of-12 from deep and 12-of-23 overall. The Adamsville, Ala., native now averages 13.0 points per game, the most among Sun Belt freshmen. Beverly-Kelley is shooting 47.8 percent (22-of-46) from deep on the season, tops in the Sun Belt among all players. Troy still leads the Sun Belt in scoring (75.7 ppg) and in rebounding (42.6 rpg). The Trojans are second in the league in assists (13.1 apg). Troy will host the first Sun Belt Network game of the season on Thursday as ULM visits Trojan Arena.

WKU Hilltoppers
WKU went 4-1 over the holiday break, and had won seven games in a row before a five-point loss at Arkansas State on Sunday. The seven-game win streak was the longest since the 2007-08 season when it also won seven in a row. WKU started Sun Belt Conference play with five straight wins for the first time since 2007-08 when they won their first 11 league contests en route to a 16-2 conference record and East Division championship. The Lady Toppers finished 7-1 in the month of December, marking the first time to win seven games in December since 1990-91 when the Lady Toppers won seven games in the final month of the calendar year. With their 71-57 win over Florida A&M on Dec. 21, the Lady Toppers surpassed their win total from a year ago with their 10th win of the season. For the first time in program history, WKU has won 11 games before Jan. 1. It is just the fifth time in program history that WKU has won 10 games before the start of the new calendar year. The four previous occasions when WKU won 10 wins before Jan. 1 were in 1990-91 (10-1), 1997-98 (10-3), 1998-99 (10-2) and 2005-06 (10-2). Sophomore Alexis Govan had a career day against North Texas in the final game on 2012, dropping in 40 points on 16-for-20 shooting. That fell two points shy of both the WKU single-game and Diddle Arena scoring records. Crystal Kelly scored 42 points in her final home game against Louisiana-Monroe on Feb. 23, 2008. With victories over Wright State and Florida A&M in before Christmas, the Lady Toppers won the Wright State Invitational. Chastity Gooch was named the tournament Most Valuable Player, and was joined on the all-tournament team by Bianca McGee. WKU will open a three-game homestand on Saturday (Jan. 12) when it hosts Florida Atlantic.