MTSU rolls past Lady Tops in second half

MTSU rolls past Lady Tops in second half

Cole Claybourn

The Lady Toppers ended one streak and kept another unwanted one alive on Wednesday night.

WKU’s (10-14, 7-5 Sun Belt Conference) two-game winning streak was snapped with a 72-66 loss to Middle Tennessee in Diddle Arena, extending the Lady Toppers’ losing streak to MTSU to six straight games.

With the win, MTSU (20-5, 11-1 Sun Belt) gained at least a share of the Sun Belt East division title.

“I thought this was a very competitive basketball game,” Head Coach Mary Taylor Cowles said. “We did some things that played right into what Middle Tennessee is good at. I liked our game plan, but especially in the second half I felt we zoned in and out mentally, and we can’t do that against a team like this.”

The Lady Toppers trailed for much of the first half but took a three-point lead into halftime behind Arnika Brown’s 10 first-half points.

But the second half was a much different story. After shooting 41.2 percent from the field in the first half, the Lady Toppers went cold in the second half and shot just 31 percent.

Meanwhile, MTSU continued its hot shooting, complementing its 50 percent shooting from the field in the first half with a 47.8-percent performance in the second half.

The game was tied at 44-44 with 15:55 remaining, but MTSU went on a 14-2 run to go up by 12 with 9:07 left. WKU would eventually close to within five with just over a minute to go, but the Lady Toppers came no closer.

MTSU’s Ebony Rowe scored 18 of her 21 points in the second half, and Anne Marie Lanning followed up her 14 first-half points with 11 in the second half to finish with a game-high 25.

Senior forward Arnika Brown led WKU with 16 points and 14 rebounds but was forced to sit for much of the second half with foul trouble.

Brown said it was frustrating to have to sit and watch.

“As a player, you get in a rhythm, and then you pick up cheap fouls having to help (defensively), but you learn from those things,” she said. “A good team is going to take advantage of that because they’re supposed to. But I feel like we adjusted to it the best way that we could.”

Senior guard Amy McNear said Brown’s absence in the second half made it tough offensively.

“It bothered us because when she was out there, she was rebounding so well,” she said. “She got a bunch of offensive rebounds and put-backs and was making her free throws.”

Defensively, McNear credited missed defensive assignments as the reason for MTSU’s big run.

“We played a pretty good game, but we should have buckled down and stopped them on that run,” she said. “They hit a three in transition and went on that run. We just need to learn how to get defensive stops.

“Offensively, we started rushing it and became a little stagnant, and we weren’t making shots like were in the first half.”

The Lady Toppers have a week off before playing again at 7 p.m. next Wednesday at Arkansas-Little Rock.