Close loss gives Cowles clues to rotation

Sophomore forward Mimi Hill blocks an MTSU layup on Wednesday at the Murphy Center. WKU lost 67-64.

Brad Stephens

MURFREESBORO, Tenn., — Figuring out the Lady Toppers’ rotation this year hasn’t been easy.

Players like senior forwards Teranie Thomas and Keshia Mosley and sophomore guards Ellen Sholtes and Chaney Means have seen their playing time increase, vanish, then come back.

Head Coach Mary Taylor Cowles has talked all year long about “finding the right combination” when asked about her players’ ever-changing roles.

But after a hard-fought 67-64 loss to Middle Tennessee State on Wednesday in the Murphy Center, WKU’s coach said she may be zeroing in on her team’s right combination.

The Lady Toppers (6-17, 3-8 Sun Belt Conference) went into Wednesday losers of four straight games, due in large part to second-half collapses in all four contests.

But WKU had no such struggles against MTSU (20-5, 12-0), out-scoring the heavily-favored Lady Raiders 37-35 in the second half.

The Lady Toppers came back from a 59-50 hole to take a 62-61 lead in the final minute before MTSU put the game away with six last-minute free throws.

“We didn’t have that lull we’ve had,” Cowles said of the second half. “When I watch this film I’m going to pay close attention to combinations and close attention to time on the clock and who was in the game and how long, because I think there’s a reason for that.”

That late rotation included heavy playing time for senior forward LaTeira Owens and freshman forward Chastity Gooch in the front court, and Means, Sholtes and freshman guard Alexis Govan in the backcourt.

Senior center Jasmine Johnson, senior guard Vanessa Obafemi, freshman guard Danay Fothergill and Thomas all also played key roles down the stretch.

Were it not for the heroics of Lady Raider guard Kortni Jones (23 points, 6-of-12 3-point shooting), that bunch likely would’ve pulled the upset on Wednesday.

“They really played harder than us,” MTSU Head Coach Rick Insell said. “I guess… we thought we were going to come in and Western was going to mail it in… Western came in and did a real good job.”

Even with the improvements WKU showed, the loss was still the fifth straight for the Lady Toppers.

Their next chance to break back into the win column comes at 4 p.m. Saturday against East Division rival Troy (2-20, 1-10).

WKU already has one win over the Trojans this season, a 64-38 pummeling of Troy on Jan. 7 in Diddle Arena.

“What we’ve got to do as a basketball team is take this momentum and apply it one game at a time to finish out this regular season,” Cowles said. “Starting with Troy on Saturday afternoon on the road.”