Lady Toppers trail wire-to-wire in loss to Louisiana Tech

Cole Claybourn

Head Coach Mary Taylor Cowles admitted starting this season on the road would make for an uphill battle.

Playing without senior guard Amy McNear, the Lady Toppers didn’t make life away from Diddle Arena easy on themselves.

WKU (0-1) watched Louisiana Tech (2-0) open up with a 16-3 lead, never trail, and go on to win, 71-55 on Tuesday night with McNear on the bench for a violation of team rules.

McNear’s suspension, which was for a violation of team rules, runs through the first three games of the season. A statement said that Cowles, assistant coaches and players would not comment further on the matter.

But McNear’s absence was obvious against the Lady Techsters.

WKU struggled to find any rhythm offensively, as a slow start turned in to a half where the Lady Toppers shot just 25 percent from the field. After a Janae Howard 3-pointer at the 19:21 mark, the Lady Toppers didn’t score again for almost seven minutes.

“I can’t really pinpoint what happened,” Cowles said. “If I could, I’d make sure to address that so that it doesn’t happen the rest of the year. But we’ve got to get that figured out. We can’t have those kinds of slow starts any more.”

The Lady Toppers pulled to within seven with just over 10 minutes to play in the first half, but they headed to the break down 16.

Louisiana Tech led by as many as 21 points before WKU attempted a run late in the second half. An 11-3 run cut the deficit to 10 with just over five minutes to play, but that was as close as the Lady Toppers came the rest of the way.

Senior guard Hope Brown started in place of the absent McNear and led the Lady Toppers with 13 points. Brown said she was proud of how hard WKU fought in the second half.

“We kept making runs and tried to make defensive stops,” Brown said. “We kept trying to come back, and we never gave up.”

The second half was much better offensively for the Lady Toppers. They matched Louisiana Tech with 38 points and shot more than 30 percent higher from the field than they did in the first half. They also out-rebounded Louisiana Tech, 40-31.

Cowles said was also pleased with how the Lady Topper responded in the second half despite the double-digit loss.

“I’ve never had a team play that hard in my nine seasons as a coach,” Cowles said. “We learned a couple things about our basketball team tonight. No. 1, there is no quit in this team, and No. 2, we’re going to out-play you defensively.

“I’ve never had as many fans stop me and stop me about our defensive intensity tonight. That’s just a compliment to our basketball team.”

Cowles said that hearing that doesn’t make the 16-point loss any easier to take, but said she can work with players who are going to come “that ready” to play hard every day.

Much like in their two exhibition games, turnovers were a problem for the Lady Toppers. They had 26 to Louisiana Tech’s 14, and Brown had nine alone.

Brown said point guard is nothing new for her, but that she was trying too hard to make plays and make the extra passes.

Aside from Brown, three other Lady Toppers reached double figures. Junior forward Keisha Mosley scored 12 points — 10 of those in the second half. Sophomore forward Janae Howard had 11, and junior forward LaTeira Owens had 10.

Louisiana Tech had four players in double figures, led by senior forward Adrienne Johnson’s 26 points.

The Lady Toppers’ home opener is at 7 p.m. Thursday against Northwestern.