The Texas State women’s basketball team will take its 1–7 road record to Bowling Green, Ky. Saturday to compete against Western Kentucky, who is 6–2 at home.
Western Kentucky has won 13 of its first 18 games for the second consecutive year.
“It’s not tough—it’s fun,” said Coach Zenarae Antoine. “This is what you play for so you can play against a team of their caliber. That’s what sports is about, trying to see where you matchup with everybody else.”
The Bobcats have won five of their last eight matches by 14.4 points per game. Their last game, an 87–82 overtime victory against Troy, was the first overtime win of Antoine’s three-year tenure.
“We are coming together as a team,” said junior guard Meghan Braeuer. “We are playing for the team and not as individuals. Our last victory was in overtime, and we just never gave up and fought to the end. It gives us a lot of confidence. Whether we are down or winning at the end of the game, we are going to keep fighting until the end.”
Western Kentucky is 6–2 in its last eight games, including two single-digit road victories against Louisiana-Monroe and Louisiana-Lafayette last weekend. The Hilltoppers draw 1,720 fans per home game, the highest average in the conference.
“I’m excited because we haven’t played in an atmosphere like Western Kentucky,” Antoine said. “I’m really excited for them to play in a hostile environment against a very good team. They do a good job on both ends. They are good offensively, as well as defensively.”
Western Kentucky is third in offense and defense in the conference. The team’s 7.6 point differential leads the conference.
“Our ability to defend is going to be critical for us,” Antoine said. “Scoring on the road is very difficult. As long as the team understands where their scoring opportunities are, the team will be fine. Ultimately, it will be about rebounding and getting stops.”
Junior forward Chastity Gooch leads the team in points, rebounds, blocks and field goal percentage. Gooch is the first three-time winner of the Sun Belt Conference Player of the Week award.
Last weekend, Gooch scored a career-high 31 points to erase Louisiana-Monroe’s 13-point lead. Gooch became the 35th Western Kentucky player to score 1,000 points in her career. She is two blocks shy from becoming the sixth player in Western Kentucky history with 100 steals, 100 assists and 100 blocks in her career.
“Chastity Gooch is amazing,” Antoine said. “She is a very good player, and she has the ability to play at the next well. The forwards and centers will need to step up. It’s going to take everybody. Because of the way the officials call the game, and the way the rules have changed, our ability to run different people at her is going to be critical.”
Texas State is fourth in the conference behind Arkansas State, Western Kentucky and Georgia State. Antoine targeted the Western Kentucky game as a barometer of the team’s progression.
“By February, you need to be playing your best basketball,” Antoine said. “February is the time when you’ve had your offense and defense installed. You should be your best. You should be prepared.”