Lady Toppers get first win in convincing fashion against Troy

Cole Claybourn

Head Coach Mary Taylor Cowles said that when players made mistakes in practice this week – missed free throws, missed lay-ups, turnovers, etc. – they had to run as punishment.

Attributing an 0-5 start to the season to those mistakes, Cowles said she simply wouldn’t allow them to happen again heading in to Sun Belt Conference play against Troy on Wednesday night.

It seemed to have worked, as the Lady Toppers (1-5, 1-0 Sun Belt) defeated Troy (1-6, 0-1) 78-61.

“I’m just proud of our young ladies for figuring it out,” Cowles said. “It all started in practice early Monday morning. It’s just a big compliment to our seniors for leading this basketball team.”

Senior forward Arnika said practice was extremely difficult this week, but added that the team deserved it.

“Anything that could possibly hurt our legs, they put us through it,” Brown said. “We knew there were consequences for us playing bad, and that was it.”

Even with a double-digit win, it wasn’t easy the whole time for the Lady Toppers. For much of the first half, the game was back and forth with 12 lead changes. Troy even lead by two with 5:46 left in the first half.

But the Lady Toppers put together an 11-2 run to close out the first half and go in to halftime with a 36-29 lead.

From there, the Lady Toppers’ lead only grew. They opened the half with an 11-1 run and eventually stretched the lead to as many as 19 en route to the win.

Four Lady Toppers scored in double figures. Senior forward Arnika Brown led all scorers with 26 points to go along with 16 rebounds. Senior guard Amy McNear scored 14 points and dished out eight assists, while senior guard Hope Brown scored 12 points.

Junior forward LaTeira Owens added 14 points despite playing limited minutes due to foul trouble.

McNear said it was good from a confidence standpoint to get a win in such convincing fashion.

“It was a big win for us to relieve some of that pressure off of us,” she said. “We got out and played transition basketball – our style of play – and we did a great job on defense. This win shows everyone who the Lady Toppers really are.

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, including 33 percent from three-point range, and kept their turnover count at 15, well below their season average heading in to Wednesday’s game – 24.

They did all of this without 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 three-pointer and forced them 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. “Defensively, we extended pressure for nearly the whole game.

“Now we need to continue to build on that and not take steps backwards.”

The Lady Toppers finally get to return home after playing five of their first six games on the road, with their last home game coming against Northwestern on Nov. 18. Cowles said it’s good to have momentum heading back home for four games in two weeks.

“Home has become a little unfamiliar to us,” she said. “We just need to continue to practice hard and prepare ourselves, because we have some good competition coming.”

The Lady Toppers will face Kent State at 7 p.m. Tuesday.