WOMEN’s BASKETBALL: Lady Tops look for win in opener

Michael Casagrande

After exhibition games against two less than formidable opponents, the Lady Toppers are looking forward to beginning regular season play tomorrow night.

Western, which will return three starters, will host Rhode Island in the opening round of the Women’s National Invitational Tournament at 7 p.m. in Diddle Arena.

The Rams are returning all five starters from last season’s 16-15 team that reached the Atlantic-10 Conference Tournament championship game.

Lady Topper coach Mary Taylor Cowles is excited about her second season leading her alma mater. Cowles’ first season as head coach ended with a Sun Belt Conference title and a trip to the NCAA Tournament.

The return of junior guard Camryn Whitaker will help ease the loss of senior starters Shala Reese and Kristina Covington. Whitaker missed last season as she recovered from a torn anterior crucial ligament.

Whitaker’s hard working nature is an inspiration for others, Cowles said.

“Camryn’s endurance is unbelievable,” Cowles said. “Is she perfect? No, Camryn makes mistakes, but her knowledge is great. It is important for the team to have a point guard that is competitive.”

The addition of freshmen Carla Bartee and Charlotte Marshall give the Lady Toppers the rebounding ability that Reese brought to the team last season.

At 6-feet and 5-feet-10, respectively, Marshall and Bartee may not have the height Reese had, but Cowles is preaching the importance of boxing out to her undersized rebounders.

“We have to play smart,” she said. “We have to put a body on a body and keep them three feet away from the basket.”

The one-two punch of senior guard Leslie Logsdon and sophomore Tiffany Porter-Talbert are expected to lead the team in scoring. Logsdon averaged 17.5 last season and Porter-Talbert averaged 12.4

The winner of the Western-Rhode Island game will play at the winner of the Texas Tech-Texas-San Antonio game on Sunday.

Men to finish preseason

The Hilltoppers will play the last of their two preseason games against EZY Bonds at 7 p.m. Saturday in Diddle. The men open their season Nov. 29 in Diddle against Mississippi State.

Reach Michael Casagrande at [email protected]