Lady Tops still trying to turn the corner

Junior Keisha Mosley fights off multiple defenders during a Dec. 29 game against Texas Tech. Mosley and the Lady Toppers lost to both Florida International and Florida Atlantic last week, falling to 8-13.

Cole Claybourn

Head Coach Mary Taylor Cowles hasn’t gone so far as to call this season a disappointment.

But she hasn’t hesitated to acknowledge it hasn’t gone according to plan either.

The Lady Toppers (8-13, 5-4 Sun Belt Conference) started the season 0-5 — the worst start in program history — and haven’t won more than two games in a row.

Things didn’t get much better for them this past week.

For the first time in her career, Cowles lost to both Florida International and Florida Atlantic. The loss to FAU was the first in WKU women’s basketball history.

“This has been a pretty rough road trip,” Cowles said after Saturday’s loss to FAU.

In both games, WKU held double-digit leads in the first half, only to shoot poorly in the second half and lose by double digits.

After leading FIU by 11 at halftime, the Lady Toppers scored just 23 points in the second half, which was their lowest second-half output all season. They also surrendered 49 points after halftime en route to a 69-54 loss.

On Saturday, WKU led by as many as 14 in the first half but shot just 30.8 percent from the field in the second half and were 0-for-11 from 3-point range. They allowed 47 second-half points to FAU, losing 79-67.

The latest setbacks came on the heels of two straight double-digit wins. One of those was a 27-point win on Jan. 16 against FAU.

WKU’s road record is now 2-8 after the two losses.

After Wednesday’s game against FIU, sophomore forward Janae Howard said the players have a hard time finding and maintaining energy on the road because they aren’t around their fans. But she said they have to figure out how to overcome that.

“We need to find our own spark,” Howard said. “When we’re at home, we can look around and see why we’re doing what we’re doing and why we’re fighting. We had a few fans here (at FIU), so I don’t really know why we didn’t (play hard). We need to find our own energy within.”

Cowles said Saturday that the players didn’t accomplish the goals they had set before the game started.

“We’ve done some things to ourselves this year, so I don’t want to take anything away from FAU,” Cowles said. “But we had goals before this game of 15 or less turnovers — we turned it over 23 times. We wanted to out-rebound them by six or more — we got out-rebounded by two.”

FAU came into the game shooting 35.7 percent from the field, so Cowles said their goal was to hold them to 36 percent or less. FAU ended up shooting 54.7 percent.

“Those were goals that we felt if we achieved those, we were going to be in a great position to win a basketball game,” she said. “Had we held them to 36 percent shooting, we would have been a whole lot better off.”

And as if that wasn’t enough, the Lady Toppers will have to move on — at least for the foreseeable future — without senior forward and preseason all-Sun Belt selection Arnika Brown. She sprained her right ankle in the first half of Saturday’s game against FAU, and the severity of the injury is still unknown.

The Lady Toppers will now head back home for three straight games, starting with Wednesday’s 11:30 a.m. game against South Alabama, which will be part of “Spread the Red Education Day.”

Athletics Director Ross Bjork said Saturday that about 5,800 elementary students from Warren County were invited to the game.

 “That’s going to be a great atmosphere and probably a record crowd for a Lady Topper game since (Diddle Arena) was renovated,” he said. “It’s going to be a lot of fun.”