Central Florida knocks off Lady Toppers; WKU 0-5 for first time

Cole Claybourn

The losses keep piling on for the Lady Toppers.

And for the first time in program history, they’ve opened up a season 0-5 after a 66-55 loss to Central Florida on Saturday at the UCF Thanksgiving Classic.

“Each loss continues to affect us mentally,” Head Coach Mary Taylor Cowles said. “I don’t know how you end up circling around and coming out of that. We’ve got to figure that out as a team.”

The Lady Toppers never led in Saturday’s game and trailed by as many as 10 points in the first half. They tied the game at 13 with just over 10 minutes left were but held without a field goal for over six minutes, watching Central Florida (3-2) score seven unanswered to push the lead to ten.

But the Lady Toppers put together an 8-1 run and came back to within three with just over a minute left to play in the first half. A 3-pointer by sophomore forward Janae Howard brought the deficit down to two, but a blocking call on freshman guard Chaney Means with .3 seconds left allowed UCF to hit two free throws and take a four point lead in to halftime.

The Lady Toppers tied the game up at 35 with just over 17 minutes to play, but from there it was all Central Florida. The Lady Toppers shot 25.8 percent from the field in the second half and went 3-of-12 from 3-point range while Central Florida kept stretching the lead.

Howard led the Lady Toppers with 15 points and eight rebounds. Junior forward LaTeira Owens added a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds, and senior forward Arnika Brown had 10 points and nine rebounds.

Central Florida had three players in double figures, led by Aisha Patrick’s 20 points and nine rebounds.

“We struggled offensively,” Cowles said. “We took care of the ball a little better and continued to work hard on the boards but didn’t shoot well enough to win the game.”

The Lady Toppers turned the ball over just 14 times, about ten less than their average for the first four games. They won the rebounding battle again, this time 43-40.

Junior forward LaTeira Owens said WKU simply can’t seem to get all the parts working at the same time.

“We do one thing one night and turn around and don’t do it the next night,” she said. “We’ve got to be consistently right. When we come in to practice, we’ve got to make sure we focus on offense and defense at the same time.”

Head Coach Mary Taylor Cowles said even though it’s been five games, she still can’t put a finger on why the team is struggling.

“That’s something we’ll continue to work on and try to figure out,” she said.

They have a lot to figure out, though. The Lady Toppers haven’t led in the second half of any game this season and have found themselves playing catch-up in just about every game.

Owens said they could start by hitting the easy shots and take care of simple defensive tasks.

“The missed layups and put-backs – that’s all mental,” she said. “We need to focus more on those. We need to come out in the second half strong like we’ve done in the first half.”

WKU’s next chance comes on Wednesday when they begin Sun Belt Conference play at 7 p.m. at Troy.