WOMEN’S BASKETBALL: Good chemistry leading to victories

Michael Casagrande

After a blowout win Thursday and a come from behind victory Saturday, Western is in a comfortable seat going into its final four regular season games.

Thursday, the Lady Toppers pounded Denver (11-12, 4-7 Sun Belt) 73-53 and Saturday they came from behind to edge North Texas (9-14, 5-6 SBC West) to win their fourth straight conference game.

The winning streak leaves Western tied with Middle Tennessee State for the second best conference record. If the conference tournament started today, the Lady Toppers would be the No. 2 seed because they hold the tie-breaker after beating the Blue Raiders 70-68 in double overtime on Feb. 5.

The good chemistry of the team is leading to victories, junior guard Camryn Whitaker said.

“We are really starting to come together as a team,” she said. “It is getting to be a lot more fun since we have four in a row.”

The Lady Toppers (13-11, 7-3) had little trouble with the Denver Pioneers, even without second-leading-scorer Leslie Logsdon. The senior guard never left the bench for what Cowles called a “team matter.”

Without Logsdon on the floor, the underclassmen took the scoring load on their backs. Senior guard Elisha Ford was the first upperclassman to score, nearly five minutes into the second half, after the freshmen and sophomores scored the first 47 points.

Freshman forward Carla Bartee filled in for Logsdon in the starting lineup and scored a game-high 21 points.

Western has now won 15 straight home games. The last conference home loss came on Feb. 9, 2002 when the Lady Toppers dropped a 55-54 decision to Arkansas State.

Western will face Arkansas State Saturday in a game that could determine the top seed for the Sun Belt Tournament, to be played March 6-9 in Diddle Arena.

In their 65-60 win Saturday at North Texas, the Lady Toppers had to battle back after shooting 8-28 (28.6 percent) from the field in the first half.

Western trailed 23-19 at halftime and 34-24 3:30 into the second half. But the Lady Toppers scored 13 of the next 15 points to take a 37-36 lead.

“We shot horrible in the first half, we shot horrible from the free-throw line,” Whitaker said. “But we were still able to come away with a win.”

The North Texas win was the third close victory in four games for Western, a fact that will help the Lady Toppers in the stretch run, coach Mary Taylor Cowles said.

“Over the last four games, we have really been put to the test,” she said. “But I think we have been able to stand up to that test. They feel like they have really had to do some things in the last four games.”

Sophomore guard Tiffany Porter-Talbert finished with a double-double, scoring 21 points and grabbing 12 rebounds. Logsdon returned to the floor and scored 15 points.

Logsdon said she was more than happy to make the move back to player after being a cheerleader against Denver.

“I sat out my game, took my discipline or whatever I had to and I’m just glad to be back,” Logsdon said.

Western will face Arkansas-Little Rock Thursday in Diddle. The Trojans have lost eight straight games and have only one league win.

Reach Michael Casagrande at [email protected]