Owens leads Lady Toppers in win over Lindsey Wilson

Western Forward Janae Howard goes in for a lay up as Lindsey Wilson Forward Ashley Rainey tries to defend in the second half of the game on Tuesday Nov. 2 in Diddle Arena. Western went on to win the game 72-52.

Cole Claybourn

With senior forward Arnika Brown sitting out Tuesday’s exhibition game against Lindsey Wilson with a stomach virus, it was someone else’s turn to take on the scoring and rebounding load for the Lady Toppers.

On Tuesday, that person was junior forward LaTeira Owens.

Owens recorded a double-double — 16 points and 14 rebounds — to go along with two blocks and a steal in leading WKU to a 72-52 win.

“I just came out and played hard,” Owens said. “That’s what I do in practice, so it was just a carryover. When you play hard in practice, it comes easy in the game.”

Brown’s absence was clear early on as it took the Lady Toppers two and a half minutes to get on the board.

They trailed 17-15 with 7:43 left to play in the first half before putting together a 13-0 run while holding Lindsey Wilson to just six points in the final seven minutes.

Head Coach Mary Taylor Cowles said the slow start wasn’t anything to be worried about in WKU’s first exhibition of the season.

“I’m really glad to get that first game out of the way and get rid of some of those nerves that come along with the start of a new season,” Cowles said. “Probably more than anything, I’m so proud of our effort. 

“There are obviously still some things we need to get better at, but I don’t think we ever had a group out on the floor tonight that didn’t play hard.”

Effort was clear on the defensive end. The Lady Toppers forced 30 turnovers, which translated in to 29 points off turnovers.

Senior guard Amy McNear, who had five steals, said the defensive success didn’t come as a surprise.

“We’ve been working on that since Oct. 7 — just pressuring the ball and making the guards have a hard time getting the offense going,” McNear said. “We tried to come out and focus on that, and I think we did pretty good.”

Lindsey Wilson was able to cut the deficit to single digits early in the second half, but the Lady Toppers put together a 16-4 run to go up 52-31.

They never trailed after that, stretching the lead to as many as 27 points.

“I don’t think there was ever a point where we were lost or didn’t know what were doing,” Cowles said. “It seems like we just simply understand what we’re doing this year, and maybe that’s because we have nine upperclassmen.

“Not only do they have a better understanding, but they’re doing a great job of helping teach our freshmen.”

Freshmen Chaney Means started at point guard, with McNear starting out as the shooting guard. Cowles said she was pleased at what she saw from Means in her first college game.

“She’s going to have to learn, and the best way to learn is to be out there,” Cowles said. “I’m just really proud of her.”

McNear, a pre-season all-conference selection at point guard, said she has no problem moving over to the shooting guard, adding that she has full confidence in Means.

Tuesday was also a monumental night for several players. Sophomore forward and Louisville transfer Janae Howard made her debut with the Lady Toppers, going 4-of-13 from the field for 10 points.

Howard said it was good to be back on the court in a game for the first time in over a year.

“It was hard getting back in there and getting used to actual game play,” she said. “We practice like we play, but I still have to get used to it with the crowd and stuff after taking a year off.”

Warren East grad and now Lindsey Wilson player Ashley Rainey returned to Bowling Green to lead all scorers with 23 points. Rainey also had 13 rebounds.

The Lady Toppers will play their second and final exhibition game at 2 p.m. Sunday against Lee (Tenn.).