Late comeback effort not enough for Lady Tops in South Alabama loss

Amy McNear’s career-high 12 assists weren’t enough to keep WKU from falling 62-60 at South Alabama. The Lady Toppers have lost five of their last seven games.

Cole Claybourn

It was a much better showing for the Lady Toppers at South Alabama Wednesday.

After all, it couldn’t have gotten much worse than Monday’s 18-point loss to North Dakota, which entered the game with an RPI of 272.

But the Lady Toppers’ improved effort still wasn’t enough as they fell 62-60 to the Lady Jaguars at the Mitchell Center in Mobile, Ala.

“Our young ladies need credit for the effort and how hard they played,” Head Coach Mary Taylor Cowles said. “That’s what they did tonight. But you know – losing is no fun whatsoever.”

The loss drops the Lady Toppers to 6-11 overall and 3-2 in the Sun Belt Conference. South Alabama improved to 10-7 overall and 2-3 in the conference.

It was just WKU’s second loss in a row, but it’s now lost five of its last seven games.

The loss also adds to the Lady Toppers’ season-long road struggles. They’ve won just two road games this season – one being a near last-second overtime win against Arkansas State.

The Lady Toppers started off well Wednesday, scoring 15 points in the first 12 minutes. But they were held to just two field goals the rest of the half and went into halftime down by eight.

WKU trailed by as many as 12 early in the second half but eventually had several chances to take a lead midway through. Sophomore forward Janae Howard scored 10 straight points to tie the game at 45-45 with 7:27 left, and the game eventually tied two more times.

Howard ended with 14 points.

The Lady Toppers trailed by three with one last possession left, and senior guard Hope Brown got a look at a 3-pointer. The WKU bench wanted a foul on the missed attempt, but none was called.

Senior forward Arnika Brown got the rebound and was fouled with .1 seconds left. She made the first free throw and missed the second intentionally, but WKU was unable to complete a last-second tip-in.

Junior forward LaTeira Owens said frustration is starting to set in as the losses keep mounting.

“Today we came out so hard and ready to play, but there’s stuff we need to work on and get better at,” she said. “We’re good, but we just need to put it together on the court as a team.”

WKU was again beaten by 3-pointers. South Alabama made eight 3-pointers and also hit 10-of-14 free throws. The Lady Toppers, however, were 4-of-15 from 3-point range and shot just 38 percent from the field.

“There were plays where South Alabama executed extremely well,” Cowles said. “They deserve some credit for being well-coached and for executing.”

The Lady Toppers were much improved on the boards from Monday night. After losing the rebounding battle by 10 to North Dakota, WKU out-rebounded South Alabama, 50-29.

“We worked extremely hard on the boards,” Cowles said. “We just need to find a way to end the game at least a point ahead.”

Owens led the Lady Toppers in scoring with 15 points and pulled down a career-high 16 rebounds. Senior guard Amy McNear also had a career night, dishing out 12 assists – a career high.

Arnika Brown finished with a double-double, posting 10 points and 14 rebounds.

WKU will now return home Sunday after playing four games in eight days to host Florida Atlantic (4-12, 1-4 SBC). Tip-off is set for 2 p.m. in Diddle Arena.