Lady Tops taking lessons from strong early schedule into Sun Belt

The Lady Toppers and Head Coach Mary Taylor Cowles leave the court after a 70-60 loss to Texas Tech on Wednesday night at Diddle Arena. WKU has started 4-8 with the 12th strongest schedule in the nation, but the Lady Tops can move to 2-0 in the Sun Belt at Arkansas State Sunday.

Zach Greenwell

Head Coach Mary Taylor Cowles has often said she views a basketball season in three phases, separated into the non-conference, conference and postseason.

The Lady Toppers (4-8) took their lumps through a grueling non-conference slate, but Cowles said she hopes that’ll help as the team turns its attention to the second phase.

WKU travels to Arkansas State at 2 p.m. Sunday, leaving behind one of the most challenging beginnings to a season in program history.

“Hopefully what we’ll do is utilize the strength of competition that we’ve played against and learn from that because our Sun Belt Conference is going to be very strong as well,” Cowles said. “For us to benefit from what we’ve done so far, we’ve got to learn and then apply what we’ve learned back out on the basketball floor to be successful.”

The Lady Toppers will also benefit from getting an early jump on conference play. They moved to 1-0 in the Sun Belt on Dec. 1, picking up a 78-61 win on the road against Troy.

“We have an opportunity to take it one game at a time and get ourselves on the right track, which obviously going to Troy and starting out with a win put us on the right track,” Cowles said. “But hopefully we will allow what we’ve been through so far to be a motivating factor for us.”

What WKU has been through so far is the 12th toughest schedule in the country, according to

The Lady Toppers have played seven teams in the top 50 of the women’s basketball RPI rankings, all of which were losses. Their other loss came to Central Florida at its own tournament.

WKU most recently lost at home on Wednesday to Texas Tech, a team which improved to 12-1 with the win.

“I personally like playing teams like that,” junior forward Keisha Mosley said after the game. “It kind of gets you in the feel of the NCAA (tournament), trying to get there. That’s what I feel like our team is very capable of doing.”

Cowles said the Lady Toppers have learned a lot through the early hardships, but that the Sun Belt won’t be a “cakewalk.”

They’ll be tested Sunday by Arkansas State (8-6), which is coming off a win over South Alabama in its conference opener.

The Red Wolves are led by junior guard Shania Hurst, who averages 11.6 points per game. Senior forward Sherina Scott also averages 10.7 points and 9.5 rebounds.

The game will be just another challenge for a WKU squad that’s already had its fair share, but sophomore forward Janae Howard said the Lady Toppers are ready to say out with the old, and in with the new.

“After Christmas, this is a new start,” she said. “We separate our non-conference from our conference basically, so we’re 1-0 at this point.”