WOMEN’S BASKETBALL: Lady Tops lose chance for first place

Amber North

The two teams bumped bodies throughout a crucial Sun Belt Conference game, but as the final buzzer sounded, the home crowd stopped cheering.

Arkansas State players rushed off the court with glee while the Lady Toppers tried to figure out how they let a firm grasp at halftime fall into a 70-60 defeat.

“We came up short for obvious reasons; we let the ball get to the paint, we gave up 15 offensive rebounds and we can’t do that,” coach Mary Taylor Cowles said.

After topping Arkansas-Little Rock last Thursday 82-62 in Diddle Arena, Western’s conference win streak was five games. The same night, Middle Tennessee beat ASU 70-47, giving the Lady Tops a chance to take first place in the Sun Belt East.

With the loss Saturday, they are now in third place.

“I think it wasn’t that we didn’t play hard,” sophomore guard Tiffany Porter-Talbert said. “We came out with a lot of intensity and I think that we did play hard and we really wanted this game. But we just didn’t get a win tonight.”

Senior guard Elisha Ford scored nine of her 10 points in the first half and Porter-Talbert added eight of her team-high 15 points to help the Lady Tops to a 34-26 lead at the half.

Western reached its largest margin at 41-32, but the Lady Indians scored nine straight points to tie the game.

Freshman guard Tifany Zaragoza’s three-point play put the Lady Toppers back ahead until ASU coach Brian Boyer put reserve Katie Caraway back in the game.

Caraway sunk three of her 12 quick points to tie it at 44, capping an 11-2 run.

In their last meeting on Jan. 17, ASU freshman center Adrianne Davie posted a career-high 20 points. She did the same in this game, along with 13 rebounds.

“It seems like all year somebody different step up for us in different stages of the game and tonight was no different,” Boyer said.

Things got more difficult when Porter-Talbert, the Sun Belt Player of the Week, sat out with her fourth foul early in the second half. Ford’s two free throws brought Western to 55-50, but that’s the closest it would get in the game. The Lady Indians had their largest lead at 67-57 with a about two minutes left in the game to seal the victory.

Western hosts MTSU in its final home game Thursday night. With two regular season games remaining, the Lady Toppers are not discouraged going into the conference tournament next Saturday.

“It’s a loss at home, which we hate to experience, but it’s not a loss in the tournament,” Cowles said. “The season’s not over. We’ve still got an opportunity and we’ll learn from mistakes in this game and we’ll get ready with Middle.”

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