WOMEN’S HOOPS: Team begins climb with pair of wins

J. Michael Moore

The Lady Toppers found their game Saturday night, earning their second straight conference win and pulling their record back above water after losing four straight over the holiday break.

But it was the way Western went about the 84-77 victory over Arkansas State that seemed to pump confidence back into Diddle Arena.

This time, the Lady Toppers won the close one.

“We know that we’re a good team,” junior guard Leslie Logsdon said. “By winning a close one, it has made our confidence even higher.”

Logsdon sparked the Lady Toppers (7-7, 2-1 SBC), scoring 17 points in the first 13 minutes of play. But a 7-0 Arkansas State run to close the half put Western down 42-40.

Logsdon finished with a game-high 25 points, but fell silent for the first 17 minutes of the second half, leaving others like freshman Tiffany Porter-Talbert, Kristina Covington and Leah Lineberry to pick up the slack.

Lineberry notched a career-high 11 points and combined with Covington and Porter-Talbert for 31 points in the second half.

“All nine players understand their roles,” Western head coach Mary Taylor Cowles said. “They understand that each player is important, no matter what the average of minutes is … They understand their importance on this basketball team.”

Senior forward Shala Reese gave the Lady Toppers the lead for good with a layup with 4:32 left, but it was ball protection and tough defense that preserved the win.

Arkansas State (5-10, 1-2) had trouble getting good looks down the stretch as Western turned up a combination of man-to-man and zone defenses.

The Lady Toppers held on despite four Lady Indians who finished in double figures, including forward Jolie McKeirnan, who used a powerful presence in the paint to finish with 17 points.

Western countered by taking its offense to the outside, compiling only 12 points in the lane during the second half.

The Lady Toppers extinguished the turnover fire that has plagued them in past weeks. The team turned the ball over only once in the final nine minutes and surrendered the rock only 14 times the entire game.

“What we’re seeing is a fewer number of turnovers and a greater amount of intensity,” Cowles said. “It’s a direct result of what happens when we take care of the basketball.”

Logsdon also regained her game late to help push Western over the hump.

With 2:28 left, Covington missed a layup and found herself scrambling to get her own rebound. She grabbed the ball falling out of bounds and slung it back to Logsdon on the left wing.

Logsdon’s three-point attempt drew nothing but net. It put the Lady Toppers up 76-70 and ended the fierce back-and-forth battle with the Lady Indians.

The two teams will meet again in Jonesboro, Ark. Feb. 15.

“I see 20 lead changes,” Arkansas State head coach Brian Boyer said. “I think that speaks volumes for the caliber game it was. Western Kentucky just seemed to have the final answer.”

Lady Tops roll over UALR

The Lady Toppers rolled over Arkansas-Little Rock Thursday night 78-42 by dominating the second half.

Western went on a 31-3 run to open the second period and held the Lady Trojans (3-10, 0-3) to only one field goal in the first 13 minutes of play.

Reach J. Michael Moore at [email protected]