Head Coach Mary Taylor Cowles was visibly upset after Wednesday’s home loss to Denver.
She had reason to be.
The Lady Toppers (5-9, 2-1 Sun Belt Conference) let a 10-point lead slip away and watched as Denver outscored them 14-3 in the final 4:40, retaking the lead with 13 seconds left to win 51-50.
And while Cowles acknowledged that it was one of the toughest losses she’s suffered in her career, she said the only thing to do is move on. WKU will get a chance to do just that against North Texas (3-13, 0-3 SBC) on Saturday at Diddle Arena.
“Hopefully we’ll be able to move forward and maintain our focus and mentality for that 40 minutes,” Cowles said. “But we’ve got to move on. It’s a new day, it’s another game.”
Record-wise, North Texas appears to be the type of team a coach wants to play when they’re team is struggling.
Two of its three wins were by five points or less, and the Mean Green have still yet to win a conference game. They also haven’t won a game on the road all season and are in the middle of a four-game losing streak.
Even history is on the Lady Toppers’ side. WKU is 7-0 at home against North Texas and has won the last three matchups – all of which were in Diddle – including last season’s 101-53 win.
But Cowles said none of that means anything and that North Texas is still capable of beating anyone, especially WKU.
She said Saturday’s game will be a “tough challenge” for the Lady Toppers.
“They are a very athletic, very quick basketball team that has a tremendous balance between their post and their guard play,” she said. “They’re a very confident basketball team. When you watch them on film, you see that confidence that they play the game with.”
If statistics mean anything, Cowles might have a point. North Texas is averaging seven more points a game than the Lady Toppers and is just about even in every other statistical category.
She said it will take a solid defensive effort from the entire team to win the game.
“If you watch them, you’ll understand that North Texas is a very good basketball team,” she said. “You can’t focus on just one young lady. Their guards have tremendous ability to rebound the ball, and they can score inside and out.”
Cowles said one of the main things she hopes to see on Saturday is for the players to respond positively after the tough loss to Denver. As she did earlier in the season when the Lady Toppers were off to a rough start, she looked at her seniors to be leaders.
It didn’t take much, though, because senior guards Hope Brown and Amy McNear spoke on behalf of the rest of the seniors after Wednesday’s game and said that they took full responsibility for the poor play.
They said they’ll take it upon themselves to get the team more focused and ready to play.
“We’ve just got to be more vocal as seniors,” McNear said. “It starts in practice. We need to be more effective as leaders.”
The Lady Toppers have practiced twice this week, and during those practices Cowles got some good news. Sophomore forward Janae Howard, who sat out the entire second half against Denver with a sling on her left arm, was able to practice both days.
Cowles said she was unsure what caused the injury, but nothing appears to be wrong with Howard and said she should be able to play on Saturday.