Lady Tops not letting first Troy blowout make them overconfident

Cole Claybourn

After losing five out of seven games during the past month, the Lady Toppers have a chance to start a winning streak after last Sunday’s 73-46 home win over Florida Atlantic.

The Lady Toppers (7-11, 4-2 Sun Belt Conference) will host Troy at 3 p.m. Saturday and try to win their second consecutive game, something they’ve done just twice this season.

WKU recorded its largest margin of victory this season against FAU, topping its 78-61 win at Troy on Dec. 1.

But Head Coach Mary Taylor Cowles said Saturday is still a new game, and the last thing the Lady Toppers want to do is overlook Troy (4-15, 1-5 SBC).

“There were some things that Troy really took advantage of in the first go-around, so hopefully we’ve learned from that,” she said. “It was a good conference win for us, but we’re a different basketball team now.”

Cowles said a lot has changed for both teams during that two-month stretch.

For WKU, the biggest difference in Saturday’s game will be that they’ll be playing with sophomore forward Janae Howard.

Howard missed the first meeting between the two teams due to shin splints and calf injuries.

Even without Howard, WKU set season highs in field goal percentage and points, as well as turnovers forced in that game.

Cowles said having Howard back will be a big advantage for the Lady Toppers.

She said Howard’s scoring ability will play a significant role in the game, as well as her length on the defensive end.

“She has the ability to challenge shots and rebound,” Cowles said. “I’m positive there are things she can add and we can benefit from.”

Despite the fact that Troy has won just three games since their last meeting, Cowles said she’s seen a much improved team on film.

She said they’ll have to play sound defense against Troy’s leading scorers, DeAngela Sword and Donette McNair. Both are averaging about 13 points per game and rank in the top 15 in the Sun Belt in terms of scoring averages.

“They just continue to gain confidence and play hard,” Cowles said. “They’re a force in different ways. Sword can put the ball on the floor and find the basket, and McNair does a great job down low but can step away from the basket.

“Both of them rebound extremely well. As their season’s gone on and they’ve continued to play together, they’ve only improved.”

Senior forward Arnika Brown also said it’s important that they don’t overlook Troy despite the success they had against them on the road.

“We got that win back then, but it’s crunch time right now,” she said. “Anything could happen, so we don’t want to overlook anyone regardless if we played them or not. We’ll prepare for them, and we’ll just have to handle our business come tomorrow.”

The Lady Toppers had a full week to prepare for Saturday’s game, and Brown said that break from games was a chance for the team to recharge their batteries.

“We feel really good, energy-wise,” she said. “We’ve had a couple of days to recover and we’ve had great practices. We’re feeling confident going in to this game against Troy.”