For the first time in the young season, coach Mary Taylor Cowles said her team came ready to play.
But the inspired effort was not enough for the Lady Toppers against Arkansas as Western fell 67-65 in the 21st annual BB&T Classic before 1,256 fans in Diddle Arena last night.
Junior guard Camryn Whitaker’s lay-up bounced off the rim as the final horn sounded on Western’s first loss in Diddle Arena in 13 games.
The loss was disappointing for Cowles, but she was pleased with the fight her team showed.
“Probably, for the first time in my head coaching career, I really don’t know what to say,” Cowles said. “Our women’s basketball team probably put as much effort on the line as I’ve ever witnessed in 18, 19 months of being a head coach.
“It’s extremely disappointing to see that we have to walk out with an L.”
The blame will not fall on Whitaker’s shoulders, Cowles said. The second-year coach said that if her team had made plays earlier in the game, Whitaker would not have had to sink the equalizer.
Sophomore guard Tiffany Porter-Talbert, Western’s leading scorer with 21 points, said the game got away from the Lady Toppers.
“It was a disappointing loss,” Porter-Talbert said. “But I think our team played with a lot of heart, but there were some mistakes … we kind of let the game go.”
Midway through the second half, Western (2-3) held a lead and a wave of momentum. A lay-up from Porter-Talbert with 7:25 remaining gave the Lady Toppers a 56-51 advantage.
But the momentum changed hands 1:18 later when freshman forward Charlotte Marshall was whistled for an intentional foul. Arkansas forward Shameka Christon made the two free throws, and a Katrina Nesby lay-up gave the Lady Razorbacks (4-1) a 57-56 advantage.
The intentional foul coupled with a technical foul on the Western bench with 2:29 remaining was frustrating, Cowles said.
“Both calls were uncalled for to be honest with you,” Cowles said. “Charlotte Marshall was definitely going for the basketball. I know that.”
Last season, Western stayed close to the Lady Razorbacks, but its 33 turnovers led to a 71-61 loss. Last night, the Lady Toppers committed 11 fewer turnovers and was out-rebounded by a much taller Arkansas team by only one. Christon, the game’s leading scorer, missed last season’s game.
The Lady Toppers will travel north on Interstate-65 to face intrastate rival Louisville Saturday. Western defeated Louisville 87-67 Dec. 3, 2002.
Tip-off against the Lady Cardinals is scheduled for 1 p.m. in Freedom Hall.
Reach Michael Casagrande at [email protected]