Lady Toppers knock off Kent State for second straight win

Senior forward Arnika Brown goes up for a shot against Kent State forward Tayler Stanton during Tuesday’s game at Diddle Arena. Brown had 16 points and 6 rebounds, and WKU won 77-68.

Cole Claybourn

The Lady Toppers are trying to put their first five games in the rear-view mirror.

With their second straight win — a 77-68 home victory on Tuesday over Kent State — an 0-5 start looks like it might be behind them.

“A good win for us over what we knew was a very good Kent State team,” Head Coach Mary Taylor Cowles said. “It was really good that we were able to come out with some momentum after the Troy win last week.”

The Lady Toppers (2-5) trailed Kent State (6-2) for much of the first 12 minutes of the game, going down by as many as eight before junior forward Keisha Mosley brought the Lady Toppers back within three with 8:30 left in the first half with her eighth point.

Cowles said the slow start was something she saw coming based on how the team looked in warmups.

“I could tell we weren’t ready to play basketball,” she said. “We discussed that in the locker room before the game, and I just think our intensity picked up midway in the first half.

“We just took a deep breath and decided we were ready to play basketball. We continue to try to find the answer to that right there — getting ourselves ready to play for 40 minutes.”

Senior guard Hope Brown tied the game at 26 with just over eight minutes left to play in the first half.

That was part of a 14-6 run capped off by another Brown 3-pointer just before the buzzer that put WKU up 40-32 at halftime.

Brown had nine points — all 3-pointers — to spark the Lady Toppers’ strong first half.

But Kent State wasn’t down and out yet. The Golden Flashes opened the second half with a 10-4 run to get back within four with 15:31 to play.

That’s when the Lady Toppers went on an 8-2 run to push the lead back to 10 with 12:40 left to play.

Senior forward Arnika Brown was forced to go to the bench with 5:58 left to play with cramps in her left leg. She left with 16 points and six rebounds and never returned to the game, but the Lady Toppers didn’t need her.

From that point, Kent State came no closer than seven points, and the Lady Toppers eventually won by nine.

Most of the game was played in transition, and Hope Brown said that played right into the Lady Toppers’ hands, allowing them to wear down Kent State.

“Transition is our game. We’re a great-conditioned team,” she said. “We might look tired sometimes, but when we catch our third, fourth, and sometimes even fifth wind, we’re going to keep going.”

But Cowles said she was most pleased with the balanced effort that the Lady Toppers gave throughout the game.

Four Lady Toppers scored in double figures, and they out-rebounded their opponent yet again — this time by eight.

They also made all but five free throws and shot 48 percent from the field.

Although they were outscored by four in the post, they still scored 34 points in the paint. That was something that Cowles said was key against a team that played solid perimeter defense.

“I thought we had great balance in the post,” she said. “We knew they were going to double and sometimes triple team in the post, so I thought we were just very smart with the basketball.

“Our guards were very unselfish in getting it inside, and our post complemented them with that same unselfish-type play and getting the ball back out when they saw the double and triple team coming.”

Hope Brown, Mosley, and senior guard Amy McNear were the other Lady Toppers who joined Arnika Brown in double figures.

Hope Brown finished with 15 points, two steals and four rebounds. McNear finished with 14 points, five assists, and four rebounds, while Mosley added 10 points and seven rebounds.

Like Arnika Brown, Hope Brown was forced to leave the game for a while after falling to the ground in the first half when she ran into a Kent State player on a pick. Hope Brown said running into the opposing player’s shoulder caused the right side of her face to go numb for a while.

“It was scary, but I’m all good now,” she said.

The Lady Toppers have a quick turnaround, and Arnika Brown said there’s no time for them to celebrate this win.

They’ll take on Bowling Green State (8-1) at 7 p.m. Thursday. BGSU is coming off an 11-point win over No. 23 Vanderbilt and a 40-point win over Cal State Fullerton.

“It’s back to the drawing board tomorrow,” Arnika Brown said. “We’ll practice tomorrow, watch film and get ready for that game on Thursday.”