Lady Toppers control both ends of the floor to win rematch with Tennessee Tech

Tennessee Tech sophomore Briana Jordan attempts to block WKU freshman Ileana Johnson Tuesday night at E.A. Diddle Arena. WKU won the game 71-58.

Brad Stephens

Head Coach Mary Taylor Cowles questioned her team’s effort Dec. 7 when Tennessee Tech handed the Lady Toppers a 69-59 road loss.

There were no such complaints from the coach Tuesday as WKU gave the Golden Eagles a 71-58 rematch defeat in Diddle Arena.

The Lady Toppers controlled the game offensively (54.5 percent shooting), defensively (35.6 defensive shooting percentage) and on the boards (44-26 rebounding edge).

The 71 points were the most WKU (6-12) has scored all season.

Cowles said she was especially impressed the performance came just a day after returning from a weeklong road trip to Denton, Texas and Denver.

“I’m very proud of them, not just because we won, but because of the fashion we did it,” Cowles said. “Coming off of a very hard, difficult, competitive week, and a lot of travel and a long way to go and getting in Monday afternoon about 2:15, and then preparing and practicing, I’m just very, very proud of our girls.

“I think they proved tonight what we’re capable of, offensively and defensively.”

Much of the Lady Toppers’ success was due to shutting down TTU’s (6-13) potent backcourt combination of Jala Harris and Tacarra Hayes.

Hayes almost single-handedly beat WKU in December with a 30 point performance.

The Marion County High School alum came into Tuesday with a 17.9 point per game average.

Meanwhile Harris, a transfer from Alabama-Birmingham, had averaged 15.8 points per game in her eight games since gaining eligibility.

The Lady Toppers held both Hayes and Harris below their averages Tuesday, as the pair scored 14 points apiece.

Meanwhile WKU forced the two guards to combine for 13 of the Golden Eagles’ 17 turnovers.

“We put that out in front of our team and said neither one, don’t let them get their average,” Cowles said. “Both very good players and a very good basketball team, but I think our team stepped up to that challenge as well. They didn’t want to be embarrassed again.”

Offensively for WKU it was all Keshia Mosley.

The senior forward scored a career-high 22 points, 17 of which came as the Lady Toppers were putting the game away in the second half.

Mosley notched the career night while facing TTU’s 6-foot-5 center, Brittany Darling.

Playing in front of more than 30 family and friends who came to watch her, the Detroit native finished 9-of-11 from the field.

“I know, me personally, I had been missing a lot of layups around the basket,” Mosley said. “I was trying to focus more on that just to win a game for the team.”

Cowles called Mosley’s performance Tuesday the best game she’s played at WKU.

“She didn’t settle for shots right there in the block going up against the big girl,” Cowles said. “She knew on film she had to go around that, and her ball handling skills and her first-step quickness as a post player is just really, really good.”

It was a Mosley layup with 8:18 to play that sparked a 9-0 Lady Toppers run, turning a tense 50-45 game into a comfortable 59-45 margin.

Following the Mosley layup, freshman guard Alexis Govan collected a backcourt steal and cruised in for a layup to make the Lady Toppers’ lead 54-45.

Seven seconds later Govan forced another TTU turnover and fired an outlet pass to sophomore guard Chaney Means for a runaway layup of her own.

Mosley completed the Lady Toppers’ quick burst by hitting a jump shot on which she was fouled, then making the subsequent free throw.

Mosley credited much of WKU’s energy to Govan, who came off the bench to score nine points, collect five rebounds and notch three steals before eventually fouling out.

“She’s just fast, speedy,” Mosley said of Govan. “Every second, she’s either getting a steal or a layup, it’s always something, and we love it as upperclassmen.”

Govan and Mosley were both part of a Lady Topper bench that scored 40 of the Lady Toppers’ 71 points.

“When we sub, we don’t lose much,” Govan said. “Our energy just stays the same and it increases and it gets better and our bench is just as good as our starting five and our starting five is just as good as our bench.”

Cowles said the energy and enthusiasm Govan permeates to her teammates is why she loves bringing the 5-foot-8 Texan off the bench.

“I’m sure you can tell when you watch her play, she just loves playing the game of basketball,” Cowles said. “I think she has really hit a stride for us right now, and if it’s coming off the bench, Alexis is going to buy right into that role.”

Senior forward LaTeira Owens was the Lady Toppers’ leading rebounder Tuesday, collecting a season-high 15 boards to go along with her 11 points.

Mosley laughed and let out a sigh of relief when asked about out-rebounding a Golden Eagle team that featured the 6-foot-5 Darling.

“It was tough, but we got it done that’s all that matters,” Mosley said smiling. “We like rebounding, guards and post… It was just fun seeing everybody out there getting rebounds.”

Harris and Hayes’ 14 points apiece were team-highs for the Golden Eagles.

Darling added 13, while forward Molly Heady scored 10.

Cowles said that between practice, games and travel, the Lady Toppers haven’t had a true day off since coming back from Christmas.

That will change Wednesday, four days before WKU hosts defending Sun Belt Conference champion Arkansas-Little Rock.

“Tomorrow, I told them when they leave their apartment or leave their dorm, to not look in the direction of Diddle Arena. They need to look opposite,” Cowles said. “Then when we step back into the gym on Thursday for weights and practice then we’ll be ready to go and it’ll be business as usual.”