Lady Toppers look for first win of year at UAB Thanksgiving Classic

Brad Stephens

WKU is leaving town and traveling to Birmingham to take part in the UAB Thanksgiving Classic.

Senior forward Jasmine Johnson said the Thanksgiving Break trip is exactly what the 0-4 Lady Toppers need.

“We can focus more just on basketball and winning,” Johnson said. “Finals are coming up, and worrying about class and projects and things, so I think this little break we have for a couple of days we can just focus on basketball, and focus on winning this tournament, getting back on track.”

WKU departed to Birmingham hoping to erase the bad taste of what may have been its most painful loss of the season on Tuesday to Wright State.

The Lady Toppers led that game by as many as 14 points and seemed on their way to a first win of the year.

But the Raiders shot 9-of-15 from three-point range in the second half to erase the WKU lead and then run away to an 86-66 win.

It was WKU’s third loss in three games at Diddle Arena this year.

The Lady Toppers will look to avoid their second straight 0-5 start when they play Samford at 3:30 p.m. on Friday.

The Bulldogs (2-1) are led by guards Shelby Campbell (11.0 points per game) and Jazmine Powers (9.0 ppg and 5.0 assists per game).

Friday will mark the first-ever meeting between the two schools.

Head Coach Mary Taylor Cowles said Samford’s half-court attack will present WKU with a challenge it’s yet to see.

“Samford is different than any team we’ve played with their Princeton-style offense,” Cowles said. “Backdoors, and ability to shoot the three and drive and penetrate.”

The Lady Toppers will turn around and face tournament host Alabama-Birmingham at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday.

The Blazers (1-2) are led by guards Amber Jones (14.7 points per game, 5.0 rebounds per game, 3.7 assists per game) and LaShaunda Pratt (15.0 points per game, 2.3 steals per game).

“UAB is extremely athletic, a very quick basketball team that I think brings a nice balance to the floor,” Cowles said. “So it’s a tough, tough test for us on the road.”

WKU leads the all-time series against the Blazers 12-3.

Should the Lady Toppers lose both games, the team will be off to the first 0-6 start in school history.

Senior forward LaTeira Owens, who leads WKU with 12.3 points and 9.5 rebounds per game, said the Lady Toppers are looking forward to the Thanksgiving trip as a time to get their season back on track.

“We just need to regroup as a team, find out what’s our strengths what’s our weaknesses,” Owens said. “A couple of days out of school, don’t have to stress about that, I think that’ll be good.”