Local weather reports in Grand Forks, N.D., showed temperatures in the single digits when the Lady Toppers tipped off against North Dakota on Monday night.
WKU (6-10, 3-1 Sun Belt Conference) was every bit as cold, shooting 36.8 percent from the field en route to a 90-72 loss to the Fighting Sioux.
North Dakota, on the other hand, shot 54 percent from the field — including 8-for-18 from 3-point range — and made 26 free throws.
“We didn’t show up to play at the defensive end,” Head Coach Mary Taylor Cowles told WKU’s Big Red Radio. “We were running around at times looking like we had no sense of mind whatsoever. They just absolutely picked us apart.”
It was WKU’s sixth double-digit loss this season, but it might have been their worst statistically.
North Dakota (3-11) entered the game with an RPI of 272 out of 343 Division I teams, according to CollegeRPI.com.
That ranks it lower than the Lady Toppers’ other losses by more than 150 spots on the list. Denver, ranked 113th as of Monday, is the next closest.
The Fighting Sioux’ only wins before Monday came against Vermont on Nov. 15 and Texas A&M-Corpus Christie on Dec. 28.
What’s more, they came into the game shooting 37 percent from the field and were averaging 58 points per game.
The Lady Toppers, who have out-rebounded their opponents in the majority of their games this season, entered the game averaging seven more rebounds than North Dakota. But the Fighting Sioux won the rebounding battle by 10 Monday night.
All but 10 of North Dakota’s rebounds came on the defensive end.
The only time the Lady Toppers led was when they took a two-point advantage in the first minute of the game. North Dakota would eventually stretch its lead to as much as 22 late in the second half.
“We were just crazy defensively tonight,” Cowles said. “You can’t play and give up that many points. You can’t put yourself in a position to win that way. I don’t know what were thinking to be honest with you.
“I’m not going to tell you that we thought we were going to walk in here and win, because at 6-9, we’re not good enough to have that kind of attitude with anybody on our schedule.”
Players weren’t made available for comment after the game.
Cowles said in the past that the Lady Toppers have been able to overcome poor offensive nights when the defense is solid, but she said that wasn’t the case tonight.
While the defense was poor, the offense didn’t help itself, either. On top of the low field goal percentage, the Lady Toppers committed 16 turnovers and were 5-of-25 from 3-point range.
Four Fighting Sioux players finished in double figures. They were led by Mallory Youngblut’s 19 points and 10 rebounds. Twins Charnay and Charnise Mothershed added 18 and 17 points, respectively.
The blowout loss overshadowed a historic night for senior forward Arnika Brown. Brown entered the game needing just three rebounds to reach 1,000 for her career and did so late in the first half.
She finished with 10 rebounds in the game and led the Lady Toppers in scoring with 15 points.
Cowles said the players must now turn their focus back to conference play. WKU heads to South Alabama, who is 9-7 overall and 1-3 in the Sun Belt, on Wednesday night.
“Everything counts there (in conference play),” she said. “We’ve got to move forward, one game at a time. They run a very spread-out offense, and we’ll see a lot of similar action like we saw today.”