WOMEN’S BASKETBALL: Focus key as Lady Tops try for No. 2 seed

Michael Casagrande

When Western takes the court tonight against Middle Tennessee State, it will be its 1,000th time doing so.

The milestone may sound monumental, but sophomore guard Tifffany Porter-Talbert said she is not overly concerned.

The Sun Belt Conference Player of the Week said she is focused on beating the Lady Raiders and not the hoopla surrounding the game.

“We aren’t going to worry about things like that,” Porter-Talbert said. “We try to stay focused and be ready for Middle.”

Focus will be one of many factors the team will need against MTSU, who have won five straight games since falling to the Lady Toppers 70-68 in double overtime on Feb. 5. The Lady Raiders (19-6, 9-3 Sun Belt) plowed over their opponents during the streak, winning games by an average of 17.4 points per win.

The Lady Raider play has been impressive, but Coach Mary Taylor Cowles said she hasn’t followed their winning streak.

“We can’t sit around and look at the scores and see what they’ve been doing,” Cowles said. “We watch film and try to break some things down from their recent games, but what we’ve also got to concentrate on is what we can do.”

On Feb. 19, MTSU destroyed Arkansas State 70-47, two days before the Lady Indians defeated Western 70-60. ASU had been the East Division front-runner until losing to the Lady Raiders.

Cowles said her team has put the ASU loss in the past and looks good going into the MTSU game.

“Forget about yesterday, don’t worry about tomorrow and play for today,” Cowles said. “That’s what we have to do at this point. I think our young ladies understand the importance behind learning from mistakes and going forward.”

The last time MTSU played in Diddle Arena, the Lady Toppers held on for a 86-83 win in last season’s Sun Belt Conference Tournament final. Junior guard Leslie Logsdon broke a conference record when she made eight three pointers and scored 30 points in the first half.

With MTSU on the schedule tonight and a Saturday road game at Florida International, the Lady Toppers’ (14-12, 8-4) seeding for the conference tournament is still far from certain.

Depending on what teams around the conference do over the weekend, Western could be as high as a No. 2 seed and as low as a No. 4 seed.

Senior forward Elisha Ford will be playing her final regular season game in Diddle tonight after spending five years on the Hill.

But don’t expect Ford to get too caught up in the pre-game festivities.

“It is just like every other game,” Ford said. “I think it will be more important for me to be into everything the best that I can.”

Tipoff is 7 p.m.

Reach Michael Casagrande at [email protected]