Freshman Johnson shows poise, leads White to 11-3 win over Red at Hysteria

Lady Hilltopper basketball players practiced dance moves in the tunnel before taking the court to scrimmage during Hilltopper Hysteria on Friday night in Diddle Arena. 

Brad Stephens

There were no freshman jitters from WKU freshman guard Ileana Johnson Friday night at Hilltopper Hysteria.

The 5-foot-6 Flagstaff, Ariz., native calmly hit two three-pointers for a game-high six points as her White Team defeated the Red Team 11-3 in the Lady Toppers’ scrimmage in front of an estimated Diddle Arena crowd of 3,000.

“It being my first time in Diddle Arena I was really nervous,” Johnson said. “But once I went out and started playing it’s a fun atmosphere to be in, it was fun.”

This season’s Hilltopper Hysteria was different as compared to year’s past.

There were no slam dunk or three-point contests this season.

Instead, following WKU volleyball’s 3-0 win over Florida International and introductions of both the men’s and women’s teams, the Lady Toppers and Toppers each played a 10-minute scrimmage.

Head Coach Mary Taylor Cowles said the Hysteria atmosphere was a good experience for a team that features seven freshmen, including Johnson.

“It gets us in the gym and allows our team to play in front of fans, and that is always very, very exciting,” said Cowles, entering her 10th year as WKU coach.

Senior forward LaTeira Owens got the first bucket of the scrimmage on a shot in the lane. She finished with four points and a rebound.

A Johnson three-pointer stretched the White Team lead to 5-0 before sophomore guard Chaney Means rattled in a free throw for the Red Team.

Another Owens shot in the lane and Johnson’s second gave the White Team a commanding 10-1 lead.

Senior center Keisha Mosley (Red Team), sophomore guard Ellen Sholtes and freshman guard Alexis Govan (White Team) hit a free throw apiece to round out the scoring.

The White Team shut down the Red Team defensively, not allowing any made field goals during the 10-minute scrimmage.

Cowles said that Johnson and some of her fellow freshman class members will be relied upon to contribute in the Lady Topper rotation.

“The best five players need to be on the floor when it comes time to compete and time to win,” Cowles said. “What Illy did tonight didn’t surprise me at all because they’ve been competing every day. I think we’ll see a lot of people step up for us this year.”

Thanks to amended NCAA women’s basketball practice guidelines, Friday’s events wrapped up the Lady Toppers second full week of practices.

Cowles said there’s been an upbeat atmosphere around the team as they prepare for their first exhibition game — a Nov. 6 matchup with Kentucky Wesleyan.

“There is so much energy and lots of really positive energy, but there is also a lot of teaching,” she said. “I am very pleased with the senior leadership, and I like just how much energy has been in the gym each day.”