Lady Tops on ‘Arkansas swing’

J. Michael Moore

For years it has been known as the ‘Arkansas swing.’

But it’s not the flowing dance the name might imply. This swing is about a pair basketball games, against Arkansas-Little Rock and Arkansas State, which have a way of bringing either great joy or great pain.

The Lady Toppers will put on the dancing shoes tonight in Little Rock for round one.

Arkansas State will be waiting to tango in Jonesboro Saturday.

Two wins and Western (14-8, 8-2) steps closer to the post season. Two losses, and the biggest dance of them all, a berth in the NCAA Tournament, may be in jeopardy.

“We have to come out and play hard,” junior guard Leslie Logsdon said of tonight’s game. “If we don’t they can very easily beat us.”

But now UALR is a different team than the one that came to Bowling Green on Jan. 9, a 78-42 Lady Topper win.

The Trojans (5-17, 0-9) were missing two key players in January, Samantha Watt and Charis Billingsley, who combined average 14 points per game. Darci Cassidy, leads the team with 13 ppg.

Another factor could come from tonight1s location. The Trojans have won all five of their games inside the Trojan Fieldhouse.

UALR is also playing well in recent weeks, losing only by 11 points to Florida International, five points at New Orleans and three points to Arkansas State.

The Trojans also found themselves on the plus side of a blowout Monday with a 96-31 thrashing of Morris Brown.

“They’re playing a lot better and have a couple of key players back,” Lady Topper head coach Mary Taylor Cowles said.

She said the Lady Toppers will have to continue defensive intensity and stop the Trojans’ transition game, which had success in the two’s last meeting.

Arkansas State presents its own set of worries, since it had a better game in Bowling Green on Jan. 11, an 84-77 loss.

The Lady Indians are historically good on their home floor, despite this seasons’ 2-6 record in Jonesboro.

Western is 4-7 all-time in Jonesboro, a fact that is on everyone’s mind.

“Arkansas State is one of the toughest places to play on our schedule,” Logsdon said. “I think they just play really well on their home floor.”

ASU (9-13, 4-5) has gone 4-3 since they met the Lady Toppers in January, falling to fourth in the Sun Belt Conference Eastern Division.

If Western is going to be successful against the Lady Indians a second time, its going to have to shut down Jolie McKeirnan.

McKeirnan is the co-leading scorer for ASU, joining Casie Lowman to average 12 points per game. McKeirnan was also the thorn in the Lady Toppers side in the last meeting, blowing up for 17 points.

Composure will be key.

But the Lady Toppers have plenty of momentum coming off an 89-85 overtime win last week and successfully rebounding from a Christmas break that saw a 5-3 team stumble to 5-7.

“It’s been very nice to see, because they’re doing it themselves,” Cowles said of her team’s confidence. “I believe we truly understand what we’re good at. The girls also understand the importance of coming out and playing defense every night.”

This is the last road trip for Western, who will return home for its final three games, beginning next Thursday against Florida International.

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