Lady Tops return to the road against Sun Belt’s top team

Head Coach Mary Taylor Cowles yells instructions to the Lady Toppers during their game against Louisiana-Monroe on Feb. 5. WKU travels to Arkansas-Little Rock Wednesday night.

Cole Claybourn

After three straight home games, the Lady Toppers head back out for their final true road swing of the season, starting with Wednesday’s game at 7 p.m. against Arkansas-Little Rock.

WKU (10-14, 7-5 Sun Belt Conference) will try to improve its 2-8 road record but will have to do it against the best team in the conference.

UALR (17-5) enters the game with a 14-game winning streak and an 11-0 record in the conference. On top of that, they haven’t lost a home game this season.

“They play very well as a team together,” Head Coach Mary Taylor Cowles said. “What makes them so good is that they are a very complete basketball team.”

Cowles said WKU’s defense will have its hands full trying to guard senior forward Chastity Reed, who Cowles labeled a “special” player. Reed is the Sun Belt’s top scorer with an average of 18.7 points per game.

But Cowles said the Lady Toppers can’t focus on just Reed.

“We’ve got to maintain a 40-minute focus and not have a letdown,” she said. “We talked about that in several games this year. We’ve got to keep that mental focus and concentration. It’s not going to be easy to beat them if we let someone else go off for 20 points.”

Despite Reed’s big production, UALR is still one of the worst scoring teams in the conference, averaging 56 points per game.

But WKU will have to figure out a way to score on a UALR defense that ranks atop the conference, holding opponents to just 51 points per game.

The Lady Toppers will have to do that without Janae Howard, as Cowles announced Monday that the sophomore forward has left the team. Cowles called the departure a “personal decision” by Howard.

Howard led WKU in both scoring and 3-point percentage.

While the Lady Toppers will be searching for someone to fill the scoring hole that Howard left, they’ll also be trying to dig themselves out of a hole as team.

With one more loss, they’ll be guaranteed to finish the season with a losing record for the first time during Cowles’ tenure as head coach.

Cowles said the players aren’t focusing too much on that, but rather making sure they win each game — one at a time.

“The overall thought is to win each time out,” Cowles said. “Right now, each win puts us in a better position come conference tournament time, and they understand that concept as well.”