WOMEN’S BASKETBALL: Reese’s 30 spurs Lady Tops

J. Michael Moore

The Lady Toppers brought attitude to the altitude of Denver last night, taking control in the second half for a 77-63 win on the Pioneers’ home floor.

It was the fifth straight win for Western (13-8, 7-2), which now has sole possession of first place in the Sun Belt Conference East Division.

The Pioneers (12-11, 6-3) have now lost all five of their meetings with the Lady Toppers and fall to second place in the league’s West Division.

Senior Shala Reese paced Western with a career-high 30 points and 13 rebounds, but didn’t get rolling until the second half, much like the rest of her teammates.

Junior guard Leslie Logsdon and freshman forward Krystal Gardner added 12 and 11 points, respectively.

Western shot 60 percent after halftime, using a 12-4 run to disorient the Pioneers and take a 47-37 lead with 16:39 left. Reese led the charge.

“She’s back,” Western coach Mary Taylor Cowles said in a post-game radio interview. “And boy, it is nice to see. She is capable of putting up numbers like that every night. She was very forceful when she took the ball to the low block.”

Reese said she was surprised by Denver’s defense and expected to be double- or triple-teamed in the low post.

Most of the time, though, Reese found herself one-on-one or all alone in the paint.

“For a while, I knew as soon as I’d get the ball that there was going to be two or three people around me, so I took it up quick before another person could get there,” Reese said on the radio.

But Western’s presence and confidence on both ends of the floor was the story of the night.

The Lady Toppers out-rebounded the Pioneers 41-34 and tallied 24 team assists. Kristina Covington and Leslie Logsdon combined for 14 of those assists and no turnovers.

The thin air of the Mile High City had little impact on the Lady Toppers after the early moments of the game.

The Pioneers led by no more than six points, that coming with just under 14 minutes to play in the opening half.

Sarah Cyran and Tasha Jones both had 13 points for Denver.

“As a coach, there’s nothing you can do about it,” Cowles said. “You could tell we were really winded, really quick, but the girls found a way to play through it and didn’t talk about it much.”

The Lady Toppers will play again Saturday, returning to Diddle Arena to host North Texas. The Lady Eagles have never played in Bowling Green.

Reach J. Michael Moore at [email protected]