Howard’s 30 points lead Lady Toppers’ rout of Troy

Arnika Brown and Jasmine Johnson celebrate a basket scored by Brown during Saturday’s game against Troy. The Lady Toppers won the game, 92-76.

Cole Claybourn

Given five days of practice between last Sunday’s game against Florida Atlantic and Saturday’s game against Troy, Head Coach Mary Taylor Cowles said she was worried what the carry-over would be like.

The Lady Toppers (8-11, 5-2 Sun Belt Conference) erased all doubts as soon as the ball was tipped.

They broke the game open with a 33-8 lead in the first nine minutes and continued to play what Cowles called the most dominant offensive performance they’ve had all season, defeating Troy (4-16, 1-6 SBC), 92-76, at Diddle Arena.

“That’s just a compliment to how we prepared all week,” she said. “While we had some letdowns, while we made some mistakes – especially in the half –court offense – it’s a big win,  and I don’t want to take that away from our young ladies.”

There wasn’t much that the Lady Toppers couldn’t do on Saturday. They led from start to finish and didn’t allow Troy to get any closer than 11 once they got the lead to double digits.

They shot 52 percent from the field, well above their season average of 38 percent.

Sophomore forward Janae Howard hit seven 3-pointers and finished the game with a career-high 30 points. Senior forward Arnika Brown scored 24 points and had eight rebounds, and LaTeira Owens scored 12 points and had four rebounds.

Howard’s seven 3-pointers helped WKU shoot 45 percent from 3-point range. They entered the game shooting 26 percent from beyond the arc.

Howard said she was simply taking advantage of what the defense was giving her.

“She (the defender) was giving me two steps back, and she didn’t have her hand up,” she said. “Coach tells me to shoot it, so I let it go.”

As did WKU throughout the entire game.  

Unlike many of the games this season, the Lady Toppers didn’t let up on their lead. Instead, when Troy attempted a comeback, WKU countered with its own set of punches.

After the leading by 25 in the first half, Troy cut the deficit to 12 with a minute and a half left. But WKU scored six straight to push the lead back to 18 at halftime.

When Troy started the second half with a 7-0 run, Howard hit two straight 3-pointers to maintain the Lady Toppers’ cushion.

And even late in the game, when Troy attempted one last surge by cutting the lead to 11 with three minutes left, WKU responded by scoring seven straight to put the game out of reach.

“We were able to do it one of two ways,” Cowles said. “We were able to go inside, and Arnika shot 11-of-12 from the floor. When’s the last time she’s done that? She was extremely focused.

“Then we complimented our inside game with really nice shooting from the perimeter.”

Brown said the key was just taking it one play at a time.

“As a team, we more or less just stayed in the moment and stayed focus,” she said. “We took it one play and one possession at a time. We played hard and stuck with the game plan regardless of what they got the lead down to or how much we got up by.”

With junior forward Teranie Thomas out with a sprained ankle, Cowles mixed up the lineup and started Howard for the first time since their game against Central Florida on Nov. 27. Junior forward Vanessa Obafemi, who’s started her fair share of games this season, also started and scored eight points and grabbed four rebounds.

Cowles said Saturday’s lineup is one that she plans to use, at least for the foreseeable future.

“Why not?” she said. “If it’s not broke, why try to fix it?”

After struggling throughout non-conference play, WKU has started to turn things around in conference play. They’ve now won two games in a row by double digits, and Brown said this was the type of offensive night they’ve been waiting on all season.

“We need to just build on this now,” she said.