Seniors spark turnaround in WKU’s win over Troy

Cole Claybourn

Going in to Wednesday night’s game against Troy, the Lady Toppers were in need of a turnaround.

They started the season 0-5 — the worst start in program history — and had been outscored 339-270 throughout those five games.

And after a dismal showing in the UCF Thanksgiving Classic last weekend where WKU lost two games, Head Coach Mary Taylor Cowles said she turned to her seniors and told them to take control of the team.

Seniors Arnika Brown, Hope Brown and Amy McNear responded by scoring in double figures to help the Lady Toppers (1-5, 1-0 Sun Belt Conference) earn a 78-61 win over Troy on Wednesday.

“It all started in practice early Monday morning,” Cowles said. “It’s just a big compliment to our seniors for leading this basketball team. They’ve all been very involved and were miserable at 0-5. They knew they needed to step in because this is their basketball team.”

The Lady Toppers’ performance on Wednesday was essentially a complete turnaround from how they played in their first five games.

They shot 48 percent from the field compared to their average of 35 percent, including 33 percent from three-point range. They also kept their turnover count at 15, well below their season average of 24.

They did all of this without the help of their leading scorer, sophomore forward Janae Howard, who sat out Wednesday’s game with an apparent calf injury.

The Lady Toppers also out-rebounded their opponent again, this time by nine.

Their defense didn’t allow Troy to make a 3-pointer and forced the Lady Trojans to commit 23 turnovers.

“We did some things this evening that we had not done, and that’s a result of how hard we worked in practice,” Cowles said. “Now we need to continue to build on that and not take steps backwards.”

Cowles said she was particularly pleased with how Arnika Brown played and said it was nice to see her continue to improve each game. Brown, who had 26 points and 16 rebounds against Troy, struggled early in the season after battling a hamstring injury and a stomach illness.

Brown said she just wanted to focus on the “old-school stuff,” like rebounding and going to the basket strong.

“I just calmed down and let the game come to me,” she said. “I’ve been slowly coming back to myself each game, but I needed a game like this.”

McNear scored 14 points on Wednesday, and Hope Brown added 12 points.

Junior forward Vanessa Obafemi said Wednesday’s convincing win has left WKU feeling like a “new team” that’s starting a new season.

“It feels like we’re starting over,” she said. “Right now we’re saying our record is 1-0 going into conference play. We’re just going to make a run off of this and keep playing hard and not look back at the first five games.”