Lady Tops win big at home, improve to 4-2 in SBC

The Lady Toppers had four players score in double figures in their 73-46 win over FAU Sunday. The blowout was WKU’s largest margin of victory this season.

Cole Claybourn

Less than a week ago, the Lady Toppers found themselves on the wrong end of an 18-point loss to a 2-11 North Dakota team.

Head Coach Mary Taylor Cowles said that loss was so bad that it appeared the players had lost their sense of mind on the court.

But on Sunday, the Lady Toppers (7-11, 4-2 Sun Belt Conference) looked like an entirely different team against Florida Atlantic. WKU led for all but three minutes of the game and had four players in double figures en route to a 73-46 win in Diddle Arena.

“That kind of a win is a lot more fun than what we endured last week,” Cowles said. “We did it with a little bit of an attitude today, and we needed to. I’m proud that we got ourselves in a position in the first half to have a lead, but even more so to find a way to extend that because that means we remained focus.

“We’ve not found ourselves in that position this year.”

It was the Lady Toppers’ largest win of the season and the first time all season that they held a lead of more than 20 points. FAU’s 46 points were also the second lowest total for a WKU opponent this season.

WKU busted out with a 10-2 run midway through the first half and built it from there. Despite shooting just 29.7 percent in the first half, the Lady Toppers took a 30-17 lead into halftime.

Cowles said the double-digit lead was a sole result of the defense. WKU forced FAU (4-13, 1-5 SBC) into 10 turnovers in the first half and out-rebounded them, 33-20. They also held FAU to just 26.7 percent from the field.

“Up until that last minute and a half where we broke down and they score six points to end the half, we held them to 11 points,” Cowles said. “That’s pretty good defense to hold a team to 11 points.”

In the second half, the defense stayed intact, but the offense picked up as well. WKU shot 53.3 percent in the second half and eventually stretched their lead to as many as 29 with under a minute to play.

It was possibly the most complete game the Lady Toppers have played all season. Junior forwards Teranie Thomas and LaTeira Owens, as well as senior forward Arnika Brown and sophomore forward Janae Howard, all finished in double figures.

Owens and Brown both had double-doubles. Owens scored 13 points and pulled down 11 rebounds, and Brown scored 13 points with 10 rebounds.

As a team, WKU won the rebounding battle, 50-36.

The Lady Toppers also ended up with 31 points off turnovers and got 19 second-chance points. They outscored FAU in the post, 38-22.

Brown said scoring that much off turnovers is what the Lady Toppers do best, and that’s the type of offense they like to play.

“We’re a running team,” she said. “We basically feed off of that. If we get easy transition points, then we just take off from there.”

Owens called the win a “turning point” for a season that Cowles and the players have acknowledged is disappointing.

“This is the start,” she said. “We’re going to start from here on out and turn things around, so look out for us.”

While Cowles said she didn’t want to label it as a turning point, she said she noticed a new level of focus in her players. She also said her team has done a good job of not panicking or getting overwhelmed despite the struggles they’ve had this season.

“They realized that they needed to get this right,” she said. “They’re not going to quit on me. They’re too competitive to allow the panic button to go into mode. They have too much pride in the letters that they have across their jersey.”

WKU played four games in eight days last week. But now the Lady Toppers will have a six-day break, something Cowles said is a great opportunity to rest and prepare for their next game on Saturday against Troy, a team they beat 78-61 on Dec. 1.

Until Sunday, the Troy win had served as their largest margin of victory all season. But Cowles said the players can’t let that get in their heads and overlook their opponent.

“We can’t think like that,” she said. “We have to prepare as if we haven’t played them because they’re going to be very hungry and ready to beat us.”