Cowles pleased with new lineup

Brad Stephens

Mary Taylor Cowles may have finally found the rotation for which she’s been searching.

WKU’s head coach went with a new lineup Wednesday against Florida Atlantic after using the same starting five (sophomore Chaney Means and senior Vanessa Obafemi at guard, freshman Chastity Gooch and senior LaTeira Owens at forward and senior Jasmine Johnson at center) every game since Dec. 7.

Cowles replaced Gooch and Means, both of whom had struggled in recent games, with sophomore guard Ellen Sholtes and freshman guard Ileana Johnson.

The Lady Toppers fell 60-58 in the final seconds, with FAU forward April Goins hitting the game-clinching free throws with six seconds left.

 But Cowles said she was pleased “very much” with the spark provided by the new starting five, especially Sholtes.

The former Louisville Mercy Academy standout played a career-high 35 minutes, scoring eight points, three assists, three steals and two rebounds.

“What was so good about Ellen is that she did such a great job communicating with her team, recognizing what the defense was in and calling and communicating things way ahead of time,” Cowles said.

Gooch played 16 minutes, scoring four points and grabbing four rebounds while coming off the bench for the first time since December.

Meanwhile, Means didn’t appear.

WKU (6-14, 3-5 Sun Belt Conference) trailed 32-22 at halftime Wednesday, and freshman guard Alexis Govan said the team set a goal at the break to either be tied or in the lead at the 8:00 media timeout of the second half.

The team did that, tying FAU 50-50 with 7:26 left.

But the Lady Toppers were hurt down the stretch by missed shots, including three while tied at 58 in the game’s final minute.

Officials called an over-the-back foul against Gooch with six seconds left, leading to Goins’ winning foul shots.

“Playing behind is always rough,” Govan said. “Defensively we stepped up, but putting the ball in the basket was a struggle.”

WKU is staying in South Florida, playing FIU at 4:30 p.m. Saturday in Miami.

The Lady Toppers opened Sun Belt play on Dec. 11 with a 65-48 home win over the Panthers.

Cowles said she plans to go with the Sholtes, I. Johnson, Obafemi, Owens, J. Johnson lineup against the Panthers for the second straight game.

WKU will look to notch its first road win of the year after starting 0-10 on the road.

“We need to come out and play our defensive game like we did at home,” Owens said. “And we need a road win to get a confidence-booster.”