Notes: WKU needs to shock UALR again for tournament title, NCAA bid

Keisha Mosley fights for a rebound during the second half of Monday’s game against Arkansas State. Mosley had 11 rebounds during the game, a career high.

Jonathan Lintner

HOT SPRINGS, Ark. — WKU added a signature win to an otherwise mediocre season when the Lady Toppers shocked Sun Belt Conference-leading Arkansas-Little Rock on Feb. 16.

Now WKU, the No. 3 seed from the Sun Belt’s East division, will fight against the odds again, facing the No. 1 seed from the West division, at 1 p.m. Tuesday for the Sun Belt tournament championship.

Head Coach Mary Taylor Cowles joked that yes, she has realized that a win would mean WKU (15-16) reaches the NCAA tournament with a .500 record. But while Cowles said she can’t explain what happened during the regular season, she said a game-by-game approach has paid off at the Sun Belt tournament.

“I’m going to be real honest — and maybe I need to talk to a more experienced coach — I’ve not prepared for four games,” Cowles said. “I’ve prepared for one game at a time, because if we don’t take advantage of that one game, the other three aren’t going to matter.”

UALR senior forward Chastity Reed, the league’s player of the year, anchors the Trojans. Reed averaged 19.2 points per game during the regular season and dropped 17 points on the Lady Toppers in the teams’ only other meeting this season.

WKU, however, has taken a more level approach to the season in which no player left on the team — Janae Howard quit near the end of the season — averages double figures. That’s in stark contrast to the last time the Lady Toppers won the Sun Belt tournament championship in 2008 with Crystal Kelly leading the way.

“This year it’s been obvious that our attention is spread out throughout our team,” Cowles said. “You can’t concentrate on just one person.”

Cowles said WKU won’t back down from an opponent in the final round, even if it seems that at 22-7, UALR has them overmatched. And she said it will be important for the Lady Toppers to keep their emotions in check on Tuesday.

“I can even go back to the feeling as a player,” Cowles said. “It’s what you put in all the work for. As a coach, it might even be a little more special to stand on the sidelines and watch a group of young ladies get it done.

“What we’re experiencing now is the individuals who chose to stick together and hold each other’s hands.”

Mosley provides spark off the bench

The Lady Toppers were searching for a post presence before junior forward Keisha Mosley entered Monday’s game against Arkansas State.

Mosley, who checked in for the first time at the 11:17 mark of the first half, scored nine points in just eight minutes and also grabbed four rebounds.

“I feel like I just came in and did what I can,” Mosley said. “Rebounding was the main thing. If our post players or our guards miss shots, I was just there to do what I can to rebound. So that was basically it.”

Mosley didn’t start the second half but finished with 13 points and tied her career high in rebounds with 11 — eight of those on the defensive end.

Lady Toppers not tiring

Praise abounded for the Lady Toppers’ strength coach, Joey Carnes, after WKU held Arkansas State scoreless for the final six minutes of Monday’s semifinal win.

“He’s very hardcore, and he’s very hard-nosed,” Cowles said. “It’s kind of a love-hate relationship with Joey because they love the way their body looks. They love the way they’re able to perform come game time. But it’s a whole lot of hard work to where they got today.”

Tuesday’s championship will be the Lady Toppers’ fourth game in four days and UALR’s third game in three days.

TV information for Tuesday

WKU’s Sun Belt tournament championship will be broadcast on ESPNU and beginning at 1 p.m. CT Tuesday.

The game will also be available online with the Sun Belt Extra package, which costs $4.95 for a single game or $11.95 for the whole tournament.