The Lady Toppers knew their non-conference schedule would be tough, and Head Coach Mary Taylor Cowles said that’s how she wanted it.
But WKU’s first three games against Louisiana Tech, Northwestern and Duke became tougher after the news they received on Tuesday.
Prior to the Lady Toppers’ game at Louisiana Tech, Cowles announced that senior point guard Amy McNear is suspended for the team’s first three games for violation of team rules. A WKU press release said that Cowles, assistant coaches and players would not comment further on the suspension.
McNear averaged 11.3 points per game last season and followed it up by being the team’s main source of offense in their first two exhibition games. She scored 14 points against Lindsey Wilson and 13 against Lee (Tenn.) while dishing out four assists in both games.
Without McNear against Louisiana Tech, the Lady Toppers struggled to find any rhythm offensively. They shot 25 percent in the first half, highlighted by a seven-minute scoreless drought, en route to a 71-55 loss to the Lady Techsters.
While the news of playing without a preseason All-Sun Belt selection wasn’t how Cowles wanted to start the season, she said it’s a situation that will allow others to step up.
“We can’t single out one or two people because our team’s not just made of one or two people,” she said. “No matter if she’s on the floor or she’s not, it’s going to take everybody on our team to be successful this year.”
McNear and freshman Chaney Means, who are listed as point guards, started both exhibition games, with Means handling most of the point guard duties. But Means moved to the shooting guard position on Tuesday as senior guard Hope Brown started in place of McNear at point guard.
It was nothing new for Brown, who came in as a point guard as a freshman. But she’s since moved to shooting guard, and the transition back to point guard proved to be a tough one.
Brown picked up McNear’s slack offensively with 13 points against Louisiana Tech but struggled leading the offense.
McNear only committed three turnovers in both exhibition games combined. Brown committed nine against Louisiana Tech.
“I was just trying to make plays and get it in to the post and I forced some passes,” Brown said. “I just tried to make the extra passes, and I wasn’t patient.”
Cowles said with McNear out, the true team aspect was visible against Louisiana Tech, despite it being a 16-point loss. The Lady Toppers rallied back in the second half to cut the deficit to ten points but couldn’t cut it any closer.
“We really played extremely hard and played together,” Cowles said. “If we can do that from start to finish during these next few games, it will put us in a better position.
“We need to be a team, and we very much were against Louisiana Tech.”
Junior forward LaTeira Owens said WKU will have to use its post depth in order to win during the tough games without McNear.
“We just need to come out, play physical and just play our game,” Owens said. “It’s a team thing, so everybody has to step up.”