WKU falls flat in 69-59 loss to Tennessee Tech

Brad Stephens

Mary Taylor Cowles hoped her Lady Toppers would come out against Tennessee Tech on Wednesday with the same energy they showed in a win over Louisiana Tech on Monday.

WKU instead played with a performance the Lady Topper Head Coach compared to “scared babies.”

Tennessee Tech led WKU by just three at halftime but pulled way in the second half and won 69-59. 

Cowles said the game turned when the Golden Eagles switched from a man-to-man defense to a 2-3 zone.

“We had no emotion, no enthusiasm and instead of just continuing with that aggressive attack that we opened the game with, we just totally, totally lost our focus when they went to zone,” Cowles said to WKU’s Big Red Radio after the game. “We just had a total letdown. Monday we take a step forward, Wednesday we take three steps back.”

The Lady Toppers’ offense was silent for most of the second half.

After scoring 35 points in the first half, WKU (2-7) scored just six points in the first 12 minutes of the second.

Senior forward Keshia Mosley said the players started dribbling too much when TTU switched to a zone, not producing enough ball movement.

Mosley said she also noticed a lack of hustle as the Lady Topper offense struggled.

“It was just us not doing the little stuff, not boxing out and rebounding, not diving for loose balls,” she said.

After past losses Cowles had praised her team for playing hard from start to finish.

The 10th-year head coach had a far different assessment on Wednesday.

“Tonight’s the first time I’ve been embarrassed with this basketball team this year,” she said. “We had no effort tonight. This was an embarrassing night for our women’s basketball program on the road.

“I’m not taking anything away from Tennessee Tech, because I think the world of (Head Coach) Sytia Messer and she does a great job. But our women’s basketball team acted like there was nothing to play for tonight and that was extremely disappointing… The staff will find out a way to make sure that doesn’t happen again.”

The Golden Eagles were led in the win by guard Tacarra Hayes, who scored 30 points on 8-of-17 field goal shooting and 14-of-15 free throw shooting.

Hayes, a former Marion County High School standout, more than doubled her 14.3 points per game average.

“She was a leader for them tonight and she wanted to win this basketball game, no doubt,” Cowles said of Hayes. “She took it upon her shoulders and said, ‘I want everyone to get on, let’s ride,’ just a leader through and through.”

It was a Hayes layup at the 6:14 mark that gave TTU a 59-43 lead, its biggest of the game.

A 10-4 Lady Topper run over the last 2:52 of the game made WKU’s final margin of defeat.

The Lady Toppers were led in scoring by senior forward LaTeira Owens, who scored 16 points.

Mosley, with 14 points, was the only other WKU player in double figures on Wednesday.

It was her third straight game in double figures.

Mosley also pulled down eight rebounds, six coming on the offensive end.

“Keshia’s really stepped up lately,” said senior guard Vanessa Obafemi, who scored nine points in the loss. “When she comes in the game she’s looking to score… She’s playing hard the way we need her to play.”

Both teams recorded 38 rebounds, marking just the third time this season the Lady Toppers haven’t out-rebounded their opponent.

In addition to Hayes’ 30-point night, Tennessee Tech got 15 points off the bench from guard Briana Jordan and nine from forward Molly Heady.

WKU will travel back to Bowling Green before hitting the road again, going to Normal, Ill., to play Illinois State on Friday.

Obafemi said Wednesday’s loss is one the Lady Toppers will have to learn from if they’re to get their third win of the season on Friday.

“We have to look past this game but at the same time learn from our mistakes,” Obafemi said. “Illinois State is a tough team, and we can’t play the way we did today and expect to win.”