Road woes continue for Lady Toppers

Senior guard Amy McNear drives toward the basket during the Lady Toppers’ game against Texas Tech on Dec. 29. WKU is 6-4 in Diddle Arena this season but 2-7 on the road.

Cole Claybourn

At halftime of Wednesday’s game at Florida International, it looked like the Lady Toppers might buck a trend that’s been far too common this season.

That trend: road losses.

After taking an 11-point lead into halftime, WKU (8-12, 5-3 Sun Belt Conference) looked to be in control and on its way to snapping a two-game road losing streak and winning its third straight game.

But then came the second half, where the Lady Toppers scored just 23 points — their lowest second-half total of the season — and were outscored by 26 after the break en route to a 69-54 loss.

The loss brought WKU’s road record to 2-7, a stark contrast to their 6-4 home record.

To WKU’s credit, several of their early road games were against ranked teams such as Duke and Michigan State, as well as top-35 RPI teams Louisiana Tech and Vanderbilt.

But Head Coach Mary Taylor Cowles said the Lady Toppers won’t make any excuses and will simply have to learn to start winning on the road.

“I’m not even going to go there,” she said. “Every college team has to play on the road.”

No one can say Cowles didn’t prepare her team for this week’s road swing against FIU and Florida Atlantic.

It didn’t matter that she had never lost to FIU in her previous eight seasons as head coach.

And Cowles said it won’t matter Saturday that WKU is coming off a 27-point win in their last meeting against FAU. She said anything can happen on the road, and the Lady Toppers weren’t going to overlook either team.

“It’s just a different feel altogether,” Cowles said. “FIU is always a tough environment to play in. At the end of the week, we go and play an FAU team that we’ve already played once. But again, it’s on the road, so this is going to be a good test for us.”

Sophomore forward Janae Howard said like most teams, the Lady Toppers play better at home because they’re in a comfortable environment with their fans there to cheer for them.

But when they’re on the road and away from all of that, she said they still have to play as hard.

“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.”

WKU will have one more chance to do that on Saturday against FAU. Howard said it will be a chance for the Lady Toppers to salvage the road trip and head back home on a good note.

Senior forward Arnika Brown said if they can play like they did in the first half against FIU, then that shouldn’t be a problem.

“We just need to not make the same mistakes,” she said. “That’s what’s going to get us a championship. We just need to take care of business, especially when we have an 11-point lead. We can’t let teams come back and beat us.”