WOMEN’S BASKETBALL: Lady Tops extinguished the Flame Sunday

Michael Casagrande

Western used two first half runs and a second half explosion from sophomore guard Tiffany Porter-Talbert to defeat Illinois-Chicago 62-54 Sunday in Diddle Arena.

Porter-Talbert scored 18 of her career-high 28 points in the second half as the Lady Toppers held off a late Lady Flame (6-8) charge.

Western (6-8) played a near flawless first half coach Mary Taylor Cowles said, but the second half lacked intensity.

“It’s a win, it’s a win, it’s a win,” Cowles said. “I felt we looked good at times in the first half. We were kind of clicking on all cylinders.”

The Lady Flames cut the Western lead to nine with 1 minute 55 seconds left in the game, but time was not on their side.

Neither was Porter-Talbert.

Her play was one of the few positives from the second half, Cowles said. Porter-Talbert recorded a double-double and scored all but nine of Western’s second half points.

“She put us on her back and carried us,” Cowles said. “Tiff Porter made jump shots and put back some offensive rebounds. She just had a solid game … she is able to do that every game.”

Six of Porter-Talbert’s 10 rebounds came on the offensive end, leading to lay-ups.

“I just try to let the game come to me,” she said. “My teammates try to distribute the ball and I try to get it to the basket.”

Western gained its lead by igniting two vital first half scoring runs.

The first Lady Topper run turned a 3-4 deficit into a 17-4 lead. Senior guard Leslie Logsdon scored the first nine points of the 14-0. The Lady Toppers scored eight points off eight Illinois-Chicago turnovers in the first 8:17 of the game.

To close the first half, Western scored the last nine points to take a 34-14 lead to the locker room.

Illinois-Chicago made only five of 27 first half field goal attempts to shoot 18.5 percent and frustrate coach Lisa Ryckbosch.

“It was a tale of two halves,” Ryckbosch said. “We came out in the first half and could not hit the broad side of a barn. I thought our kids came out in the second half and showed a lot of heart.”

Logsdon was the only other Lady Topper to score in double figures as she added 13 points and a career-high eight steals.

Porter-Talbert was not the only one on the floor to come up big in the second half.

Lady Flame forward Dejeanette Flournoy scored 16 of her team-high 20 points in the second half.

The win was a big boost for the Lady Toppers, senior guard Elisha Ford said.

Part of the reason it was so important is because Western will begin its Sun Belt Conference schedule Jan. 15.

“We definitely needed that win going into conference,” Ford said. “It was an ugly win, but it will give us some energy going into Arkansas.”

After playing Arkansas State Thursday, the Lady Toppers will then travel across the Natural State to play Arkansas Little-Rock Saturday.

Reach Michael Casagrande at [email protected].