WOMEN’S BASKETBALL: Lady Toppers looking to regain communication

J. Michael Moore

It’s been one of those up-and-down seasons.

Not all perfect, but not all bad.

Yet the Lady Toppers (8-8, 3-2) have come to several realizations over the past couple of months – like it only takes one or two mistakes to lose a basketball game.

Saturday night, Mobile, Ala. – Western lost 65-61 to South Alabama. The Jaguars hit 10 3-pointers in the game, thanks to Western’s lackluster communication on defense.

The Lady Toppers also committed 15 turnovers.

Big errors that cost them a close game.

“The main reason we lost was communication,” senior guard Kristina Covington said. “With any team, regardless of if they have a 3-point shot or not, you can’t give them a wide-open set-up.”

Head coach Mary Taylor Cowles said it seems only one or two things have gone wrong in her squad’s close losses. Turnovers and defense hurt her team Saturday night.

The Lady Toppers lost to USA by four, but with the turnovers, squandered several opportunities to score.

“We’re simply trying to guard the perimeter the best we can and know what we’re doing defensively,” Cowles said.

She also said her team struggled Saturday in calling out their opponent’s screens and making the appropriate switches.

But there has been some up with the down this season.

Thursday night, the Lady Toppers rebounded from a 26-20 halftime deficit to beat the New Orleans Privateers 63-54. Western led by as many as 10 points in the second half after after shooting a dismal 36 percent in the opening period.

Another big slice of redemption and momentum could come tonight at 7, when the Ragin’ Cajuns of Louisiana-Lafayette visit Diddle Arena.

Lafayette (3-11, 0-4) is in the middle of a six-game skid. It hasn’t won a game since Dec. 21. But no one is overlooking the potential for an upset.

“(Lafayette) is another challenge,” Cowles said. “I think they are talented in several positions. I think they bring a nice competitive game. We can’t look at their record.”

Freshman point guard Tiffany Porter-Talbert said rebounding and defense will continue to be the key for the Lady Toppers, whom, despite a lack of size, have out-rebounded or hung close to their opponents on the glass.

She said the coaching staff instills confidence, and won’t allow size to be an excuse to get disrupted on the boards.

Cowles said the focus on rebounding came with the first game of the season against Louisiana Tech, when her team realized that with a lack of depth, limiting the Lady Techsters second chance points was all the more crucial.

“Offense will come,” Porter-Talbert said. “The first thing is defensive rebounding. It’s a major part of our game … we have a small team but it doesn’t matter how big you are when you box out.”

The Ragin’ Cajuns are ninth in the conference in rebounding, led by Anna Petrakova (8 rebounds per game).

As for scoring, Lafayette is last in the league, managing just over 50 points per game, thanks largely to Charlotte Green (14 ppg).

Green is also the Cajuns’ main 3-point threat, shooting 41 percent from behind the arc.

A win tonight and a Middle Tennessee loss would put the Lady Toppers in sole possession of the conference’s East Division.

Western will host New Mexico State (9-7, 3-1) Saturday night in Diddle Arena before traveling to conference-leading Florida International (12-5, 3-1) next Thursday.

Reach J. Micahel Moore at [email protected]