Lady Toppers throwing out South Alabama loss, moving on to Arkansas State

Brad Stephens

There are a couple of ways to deal with game film from a loss as bad as the 70-33 defeat WKU was dealt by South Alabama on Saturday.

One approach is to review the tape and see what went wrong.

The other is the approach that Head Coach Mary Taylor Cowles is taking —throw the tape to the side and just focus on the next opponent, which will be Arkansas State at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday at Diddle Arena.

“What are you going to learn off it? There’s nothing to learn from that film,” Cowles said. “I don’t think there’s anything positive that can come out of that situation.

“This week we need to be extremely positive and we need to be extremely upbeat with our basketball team, not only for ending our regular season but for what lies ahead (at the Sun Belt Conference Tournament).”

The South Alabama loss came on the heels of a three-game stretch during which the Lady Toppers played some of their best basketball of the year.

During those three games WKU (8-18, 5-9 Sun Belt) notched an 11-point win over Florida Atlantic and a 23-point victory over Troy and lost by just three to first-place Middle Tennessee State.

But senior center Jasmine Johnson said she didn’t “know where (WKU’s) mindset was” in the 37-point loss to the Lady Jaguars.

“When we played Middle and that week we went like 10 steps up,” Jasmine said. “Then Saturday we just dropped back like 20 steps.”

Johnson said the Lady Toppers have responded well in practice since Saturday.

But she said one of the biggest obstacles for her and WKU’s other four seniors has been convincing the team’s underclassmen to forget about the South Alabama loss.

“When we mess up we get down on ourselves too much and they don’t know how to go forward with it,” Johnson said. “It’s hard trying to teach them how to do that.”

The Lady Toppers get an Arkansas State team on Wednesday with an identical 5-9 Sun Belt record.

Head Coach Brian Boyer’s Red Wolves are led by forward Jane Morrill, a 6-foot-1 sophomore who averages 16.6 points and 5.6 rebounds.

She also shoots 30.8 percent from the perimeter, the second-highest 3-point field goal percentage on the team.

“I think Morrill is a true force inside that I really like because she has the ability to step out and pop at the 3-point line,” Cowles said. “…She’s just really strong and really physical inside and does a great job down low around the basket as well.”

Other key players include guard Shania Hurst (11.6 ppg, 5.4 rpg) and guard Quinishia McDowell (7.9 ppg, 3.7 rpg).

“I think a team that as I watch them on film it seems like every time I stick in a new film I learn a little something new about them,” Cowles said. “They’re very good in transition and do a great job of taking advantage of getting some easy points in transition which is something we understand that we need to limit. But I also think they know what they’re trying to get done in the half court.”

After Arkansas State, WKU will finish its regular season at 1 p.m. on Sunday against MTSU in Diddle.

The Lady Toppers are locked into the East Division No. 5-seed for the Sun Belt Tournament, regardless of the outcomes of their games on Wednesday and on Sunday.

Cowles said that even without postseason implications on the line, she’s confident her team will “play to win.”

“So while the tournament may already be seeded and be decided at this point, I promise you these young ladies are excited about these last two regular season games, and understand the importance of representing WKU,” Cowles said. “There is a pride factor there, you’re exactly right, but it’s also an opportunity to win and compete.”