WOMEN’S BASKETBALL: Lady Tops claim No. 3 seed

Michael Casagrande

Entering its final regular season weekend, Western needed two wins and a little help.

The wins came, but the help never arrived.

A 79-71 win over Middle Tennessee State Thursday and a 73-66 win over Florida International Saturday gave the Lady Toppers the No. 3 seed in the Sun Belt Conference Tournament.

Western (16-12, 10-4 Sun Belt Conference) needed South Alabama to lose to North Texas Saturday to take the No. 2 seed, but the Jaguars defeated the Lady Eagles 61-50.

Sophomore guard Tiffany Porter-Talbert said the team worried more about winning their own games and not about the outcome of the South Alabama game.

“We really needed those two wins,” Porter-Talbert said. “It was an ugly win, but it was a win, and a win is a win.”

As the No. 3 seed, Western will face No. 6 seeded Louisiana-Lafayette (13-14, 7-8) at 1:30 p.m. Sunday. The Sun Belt Conference tournament will be held in Diddle Arena.

Winning the final two conference games did not come easy for Western. In the win over MTSU, the Lady Toppers had to overcome a 15-2 deficit to claim the victory.

Western was able to take advantage of the early foul trouble the top three Lady Raiders found themselves in to battle back from the lopsided early score.

“We really felt handcuffed in the first half with our three leading scorers on the bench,” MTSU coach Stephany Smith said. “Especially with Chrissy (Givens) not having a particularly good game.”

Junior guard Camryn Whitaker tied her career-high against the Lady Raiders, scoring 21 points and connecting on all six of her field goal attempts.

Whitaker’s scoring explosion came as no surprise to Cowles even though her scoring average is down.

“We all know how capable Camryn is,” Cowles said.

The emotional senior night victory had little time to sink in as the team flew to Miami on Friday for Saturday’s finale with FIU.

Again, the Lady Toppers saw themselves on the short end of the score: down six with nine minutes to play.

After tying the score at 51 with 5 minutes 45 seconds remaining, senior guard Leslie Logsdon ran off 11 straight points in the next 90 seconds, and Western took the lead for good.

Logsdon scored a game-high 28 points, including 12-for-12 performance from the free-throw line. Logsdon had been shooting only 58.2 percent from the free-throw line this season.

“With Leslie, she wanted the ball and it was obvious,” Cowles said. “She took us on her back and carried us.”

Winning the game after trailing is becoming a theme for the Lady Toppers, one that Porter-Talbert said isn’t always intentional.

“We don’t like to fall behind, but coach Cowles says that the good teams are going to make their runs,” Porter-Talbert said.

The FIU win was Western’s seventh in eight games and provided great momentum heading into post-season play, Cowles said.

“It was the right way to send us into the tournament,” Cowles said. “We couldn’t have positioned ourselves any better.”

Pope cleared to play

After spending more than a week in California undergoing tests, redshirt freshman Cacie Pope returned to the Hill last week.

The tests revealed her brain tumor is showing no signs of returning and doctors cleared Pope to return to practice.

Reach Michael Casagrande at [email protected]