WOMEN’S BASKETBALL: Lady Tops like underdog tag

J. Michael Moore

Junior guard Leslie Logsdon thinks the Lady Toppers have more than a shot in Saturday’s first round NCAA Tournament game against Rutgers.

She likes the match up.

And the shot at the win.

“The main part of their game is their guard play,” Logsdon said after Tuesday’s practice. “I think that’s good for us.”

Logsdon said she thinks the Scarlet Knight post players are not as strong as the Lady Toppers — possibly opening the door for Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year, senior forward Shala Reese.

The Scarlet Knights have two post threats in freshman Michelle Campbell and junior Shalicia Hurns.

The duo averages just over 12 points and 10 rebounds per game.

Reese had a weak conference tournament, but rebounded in the championship game to tally 15 points and 13 rebounds.

She is averaging 15.8 points on the season.

Logsdon is Western’s leading scorer, averaging 17.6 points per game.

She said she and her fellow guards, senior captain Kristina Covington and freshman Tiffany Porter-Talbert, can contribute to scoring, as well as providing defensive pressure.

But stopping the Scarlet Knight’s back court could be a tall order.

Sophomore point guard Cappie Pondexter leads the Scarlet Knights in scoring (18.4 points per game).

She also leads the team with 130 assists.

Pondexter was voted on the Big East All-Tournament team and is a finalist for the Nancy Lieberman Award, given annually to the best point guard in the nation.

Stringer is confident in the young guard’s ability.

And she is mulling over a match up between her and Porter-Talbert, the Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year.

“They’re probably equally important to their teams,” Stringer said. “I don’t believe anyone can handle (Pondexter) by themselves. I think what’s important is to understand what each others’ rolls to be.”

Head coach Mary Taylor Cowles is cautious in preparing her game plan, saying Pondexter is not the only threat.

Scarlet Knight senior Mauri Horton averages nearly 12 points per game and is the only player with NCAA Tournament experience.

“All the research we’ve done shows they’re a great basketball team,” Cowles said.

She said Porter-Talbert will be the main focus to take on Pondexter, but will be joined by junior guard Elisha Ford and Covington.

But more importantly, the Lady Toppers (22-8, 12-2) will have to survive Rutgers’ defensive pressure.

“I’m sure (Pondexter) is a very good athlete and player, but we have players that can match up to her. The way for us to win this basketball game is to handle their defensive pressure.”

Offensively, Western is not looking to make any drastic changes.

“We’ve been very good at continuing what we’re doing,” she said. “Our girls are very comfortable with our offensive system. I don’t think you throw anything in the trash.”

However, Cowles said not to rule out any new offensive wrinkles to bolster her leading scorers.

Rutgers (20-7, 13-3 Big East Conference) enters the game with two straight defeats.

The Lady Toppers have won 14 straight.

The Scarlet Knights lost 77-74 in the quarterfinals of the Big East Tournament last week.

But Rutgers’ four conference defeats came by a total of only 11 points.

They beat conference champion Villanova twice and fell to defending national champion Connecticut by five.

Six other Big East teams made it into the field of 64 — Connecticut, Miami, Notre Dame, Virginia Tech, Villanova and Boston College.

But even given the strength of their conference, Stringer doesn’t expect the game against the 13-seeded Lady Toppers to be a blow out.

“We didn’t get a cake walk,” Stringer said. “I think their chemistry is great.”

Reach J. Michael Moore at [email protected]