WOMEN’S BASKETBALL: Lady Tops host Trojans tonight

Michael Casagrande

With the two Sun Belt Conference teams from Arkansas coming to town this weekend, Western will face two teams that couldn’t be moving in more different directions.

At 7 p.m., conference punching bag Arkansas-Little Rock will meet the surging Lady Toppers (13-11, 7-3 Sun Belt Conference) in Diddle Arena.

The Trojans (8-15, 1-9 SBC) have lost seven straight games and have lost 25 of their last 26 league games.

Their polar opposite, Arkansas State, will be next in line Saturday for the Lady Toppers who have won 12 consecutive conference regular season home games.

The Lady Indians (17-6, 8-2 SBC) have the top record in the Sun Belt and lead the East Division.

The Lady Toppers have been moving in the same direction as ASU lately. Both have four-game winning streaks entering weekend competition.

Before coming to the Hill, Arkansas State will visit Middle Tennessee State who is in a second place tie with Western in the East Division.

A pair of Lady Topper wins this weekend would set up a showdown between MTSU and Western next Thursday that could determine the regular season championship and the tournament’s top seed.

While the possibility of back-to-back regular season championships is exciting, the team isn’t talking much about it, coach Mary Taylor Cowles said.

“I think that they understand, come Thursday with Little Rock, that we’d better come ready to play,” she said. “The last four wins don’t really give us anything come game time.”

Sophomore ASU guard Ali Carter was named Sun Belt Player of the Week Monday after averaging 16.3 points per game in the Lady Indians’ three victories last week.

After starting 5-8, Western is starting to get into a winning groove since entering conference play. Winning seven of its last 10 is not enough for junior guard Camryn Whitaker to say the team is peaking.

“I don’t want to jump the gun,” Whitaker said. “But we are starting to come together as a team … It is starting to be a lot more fun since we have won four in a row.”

A stronger defense has been instrumental for Western as its confidence is growing. The Lady Toppers have not lost a game in which their opponents have scored less than 70 points.

Senior guard Leslie Logsdon said the defensive concept hasn’t changed, but the team’s understanding of the system has.

“Defense controls the intensity of the whole game,” Logsdon said. “If we come out defensively up and intense … it makes our offense go. That is a big key besides rebounding.”

Reach Michael Casagrande at [email protected].