Women’s Basketball notes: Cowles talks schedule, Pat Summit’s illness

Women's Basketball notes: Cowles talks schedule, Pat Summit's illness

Brad Stephens

Head Coach Mary Taylor Cowles will have quite a challenge on her hands when her Lady Tops begin regular season play in on Nov. 12.

After opening against Towson, WKU’s next nine games will be against teams that participated in postseason play during the 2010-2011 season.

Those games include a Nov. 15 road contest against Northwestern, a Nov. 20 home game against Duke and a Dec. 5 home tilt against Louisiana Tech.

Cowles said on Friday that a challenging schedule shouldn’t be a surprise, given the tradition of WKU women’s basketball.

“Our women’s basketball program is built on stepping up to the challenge,” Cowles said. “If we want to be among the best, and be the best, we’ve got to play the best.”

Drawing the most attention of the Lady Tops’ nonconference opponents will be Duke.

The Blue Devils are five-time Atlantic Coast Conference champions and a perennial women’s basketball powerhouse.

Duke visits Diddle Arena Nov. 20 at 2 p.m.

“When you say the name of Duke, everybody knows how good they are,” Cowles said. “(Head Coach) Joanne (P. McCallie) does a great job.

“They lost some great senior leadership and senior ability but they’ve reloaded, and what they have returning, I believe is just as strong of a Duke team as they had last year.”

The Lady Toppers lost 82-55 at Duke last season. 

Cowles said she and the athletic department tried to emphasize nonconference schools nearby geographically when formulating the schedule.

She said developing series’ against schools within reasonable driving distance of Bowling Green, such as Wright State, Illinois State and Tennessee Tech, was desirable for cultivating rivalries.

“It’s huge for women’s basketball,” Cowles said. “It’s great to allow our fans that opportunity without it being such a strain time-wise or financially.”

Highlighting the Lady Tops’ Sun Belt Conference schedule will an 11 a.m. matchup on Jan. 4 with Louisiana-Lafayette  the second installment of the program’s “Education Day.”

Last year’s inaugural event allowed more than 6,000 Bowling Green and Warren County elementary school students the opportunity to see WKU defeat South Alabama in Diddle Arena.

“It’s a chance to get these young kids on a college campus where maybe they haven’t ever been before and then get them familiar with women’s basketball,” Cowles said.

She said a disappointing 2010-2011 season that saw the Lady Tops finish 15-17 overall has WKU motivated for the year ahead.

“Our returners are very eager to get back on the floor because they know last year was kind of sour, and last year was not typical of us,” Cowles said. “They want the opportunity to erase that out of their minds and the best way to do that is to get back to work.”

Cowles “not surprised” at Summit’s strength

The basketball world was shaken earlier in the week when it was announced that legendary University of Tennessee women’s coach Pat Summit was diagnosed with early on-set dementia.

Summit, college basketball’s all-time leader in coaching victories, told supporters she will continue to coach the Lady Vols through at least the upcoming season.

Cowles said she was not surprised that Summit wasn’t stepping down.

“I feel for Coach Summit with the actual situation but I’m not surprised at her stance on it and how she came out so strong,” Cowles said. “Her teams step out on the floor prepared to fight, ready to go with all they’ve got, and that’s how she’s handled this.”