Notebook: Means scores nine just days after surgery

Brad Stephens

Chaney Means was under the knife on the morning of Dec. 1, getting surgery to repair a broken nose.

Four days later the sophomore guard hit three three-point shots and helped WKU to a 69-54 win over Louisiana Tech.

Means, who sustained the injury during the Lady Toppers’ Nov. 25 win over Samford, wore a heavily padded mask to guard against further injury.

“I honestly didn’t even know how much playing time I would get tonight,” said Means, who scored her nine points off the bench. “Coach gave me a chance, and the other players made it easy to step in and not have all that pressure.”

The Lawrenceville, Ga., native’s nine points matched a career high set on Nov. 12 in a loss to Towson.

All three of her three-pointers came in the first half as she helped WKU take control of the Lady Techsters.

The Lady Toppers led comfortably throughout the second half and notched the 15-point win, their first at Diddle Arena this season.

“Good for Chaney,” Cowles said. “She really, really stepped up for her team and understood what she needed to do. I can only imagine how frustrating that injury has been. But at the same time she hasn’t used that as an excuse.”

Cowles said Means is expected to have to wear the mask for another four to six weeks, and that the nose injury will be something her staff will “continue to monitor.”

Career game for ‘Illy’

Freshman guard Ileana Johnson came into Monday’s game averaging just 6.7 minutes, 1.3 points and one assist per game.

The Flagstaff, Ariz., native far exceeded those totals against Louisiana Tech, notching six points and seven assists with just two turnovers in 29 minutes off the bench.

Cowles said Johnson became a “different young lady” after playing 14 minutes in WKU’s Nov. 29 loss to Bowling Green State.

“She can give us six points and seven assists and two turnovers and 29 minutes of play. That adds huge to what we need on this basketball team,” Cowles said. “Illy’s an extremely good ball handler, does not get real scared or shook when the press comes or the pressure comes in the half-court, and I thought she demonstrated that tonight.”

Johnson was one of Cowles’ more heralded recruits in this year’s freshman class.

She was named the Arizona Daily Sun’s Girls Basketball Player of the Year in three straight seasons while playing for her father, Tyrone, at Flagstaff High School.

“She’s been in a gym all her life, and this is what she wants to do. She wants to play ball,” Cowles said. “I look for her to be able to continue this type of production for us.”

WKU beats an old foe

Louisiana Tech and WKU have long been women’s basketball rivals, dating back to their days as fellow Sun Belt Conference members.

The Lady Toppers and Lady Techsters met seven times in eight years in the Sun Belt Tournament Championship, with Louisiana Tech winning five of those meetings.

Cowles said she made the days leading up to Monday’s game “Rivalry Week” for her Lady Toppers.

She said assistants Latrice McLin and Camryn Whitaker dug up stats from the series while graduate intern Kenzie Pharis put together a highlight film for the WKU players to watch.

“I think our young ladies really understood a little bit better what that matchup was like between WKU and La Tech,” Cowles said. “I think that’s part of what makes college basketball so awesome is the rivalries…The rivalry between us and La Tech is fun. It’s part of what women’s basketball is all about.”