WOMEN’S BASKETBALL: Better post defense a point of emphasis for Lady Toppers

Michael Casagrande

The Lady Toppers returned from Arkansas Saturday after splitting their first two Sun Belt Conference games.

Although Western defeated Arkansas-Little Rock 61-57 on Jan. 15, senior guard Leslie Logsdon said the team played a more complete game in an 81-74 loss to Arkansas State Jan. 17.

“We just didn’t play well at Arkansas-Little Rock,” Logsdon said. “But we ended up winning the game. At Arkansas State, I thought we played a pretty decent game and we came out with a loss, but I think we will learn a lot of things from that game.”

Western hopes to put its game together this weekend as it hosts a pair of conference games. New Orleans will travel to Diddle Arena tonight for a 7 p.m. tipoff and conference front-runner South Alabama will visit at 7 p.m. Saturday.

The Privateers nearly ended South Alabama’s win streak that currently stands at 14 games in their Sun Belt opener. The Jaguars escaped Lakefront Arena with a 66-65 win.

Coach Mary Taylor Cowles said the team is taking a positive attitude into the two-game homestand.

“We just can’t walk out and expect to win,” Cowles said. “At the same time, hopefully we will be able to put our 40-minute game together and I think we will be able to make it a competition.”

Post defense was the key point Cowles preached to her team before making the trip to Arkansas. Despite focusing on defense in practice, Cowles said she still isn’t happy with the way her team plays in the defensive paint.

“Defense still remains our weakness,” she said. “We need to continue to get better, to get stronger … It is a continuation of something we need to get better at.”

Denying New Orleans second chances on the defensive end is one of the main focuses, senior guard Elisha Ford said.

“Basically, it comes down to boxing out,” Ford said.

The Lady Toppers rank second to last in the conference in rebounding defense with 39.5 rebounds per game.

The biggest challenge Western will face in the early conference season will be against South Alabama.

The Jaguars dominated conference favorite New Mexico State 69-35 Jan. 17, and have not lost since their opener against Vanderbilt. Since losing to the Commodores Nov. 21, South Alabama has done what it takes to earn victories.

Before routing New Mexico State, the Jaguars had not defeated a team by more than 10 points since Dec. 29 against Mississippi Valley State.

Cowles said her team doesn’t take any opponent lightly, especially sice South Alabama is having a special season.

“Their record shows they must be doing something right,” Cowles said.

Reach Michael Casagrande at [email protected].