WOMEN’S BASKETBALL: Extra five minutes needed in win

Michael Casagrande

Western coach Mary Taylor Cowles could barely speak following last night’s win over Florida International. She wasn’t overcome with emotion, rather her voice had maxed out after pulling out a 73-69 overtime victory.

Western (11-11, 5-3 Sun Belt Conference) had its chances to finish off the Golden Panthers in the first 40 minutes, but freshman forward Carla Bartee was less than a second late.

Bartee’s put-back from a missed Tiffany Porter-Talbert layup came just after the final horn in regulation. The tardy tip-in sent the Lady Toppers to overtime for the second straight game. Western beat Sun Belt East rival Middle Tennessee State 70-68 Feb. 5 in double-overtime.

Before overtime, Cowles had a message for the team that drew from last Thursday’s win at MTSU.

“What I told them at the bench before overtime was, ‘Come on girls, we are going to do this, we are used to this now.'”

Senior guard Leslie Logsdon apparently listened, then acted.

Logsdon, who had been quiet most of the game, scored nine of her 20 points in the extra period and made 5-6 free throws. Her improved free throw shooting must have rubbed off, as Western went on to make all five of its shots from the field in overtime.

Being the senior leader, Logsdon took charge as she scored the first two field goals in the first minute of the overtime period.

“I think I came out and brought excitment to the team going into the overtime,” Logsdon said. “I hit two big baskets, and that got my teammates up and they followed behind me. So I think that was a big turnaround at the beginning of overtime.”

FIU senior guard Ivelina Vrancheva came up short on a pair of 3-point attempts in the final seconds to solidify Western’s 10-straight home win over conference competition.?

The FIU pair of Milena Tomova and Allison Bustamante took it upon themselves to torch the Lady Toppers in the first half. The two accounted for 25 of the Panther’s 33 first-half points.

While the Panthers (11-12, 5-5) depended on Tomova and Bustamante to provide points in the first 20 minutes, seven different Lady Toppers broke into the scoring column. Porter-Talbert led the way for Western in the first half with six points.

FIU committed 11 first-half turnovers which helped keep Western within striking distance as the Lady Toppers scored 10 points from miscues.

The Lady Toppers also got a boost from the free-throw line which has been a weakness this season. Their 11-13 shooting from the free-throw line in the first half, helped to off-set the poor 9-32 (28.1 percent) shooting from the field.

To open the second half, Western had a renewed energy that powered it to a 13-2 run to open the half to turn a 33-29 halftime deficit into a 42-37 lead seven minutes into the half. The Golden Panthers had shot 42.9 percent from the field in the first half but could not make their second field goal of the second half until 13:07 remained.

After Logsdon made Western’s first 3-pointer of the game with 9:19 remaining in regulation, Western went on a shooting famine that lasted nearly 4 minutes and 30 seconds. The drought allowed FIU to tie the game at 51-51 with 5:24 left, and opened the door for the frantic finish.

Western will stay at home to play conference foe Denver at 7 p.m. Thursday night in Diddle Arena. Senior guard Elisha Ford said the team is riding high after the last two close victories.

“I definitely think this is going to get our momentum back,” Ford said. “The MTSU game was a great start coming off the losses. I feel that these two games will make us stronger for the games coming up.”

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Reach Michael Casagrande at [email protected]