WOMEN’S BASKETBALL: Lady Tops rout Louisville, edged by Clemson

J. Michael Moore

Two Lady Topper teams showed up against Louisville Tuesday night.

One fell behind 26-11 to open the game. The other stormed back to dominate the Cardinals and grab the 87-67 victory.

The Cardinals used an 11-0 run to subdue the Lady Toppers in the first 12 minutes of play, but Western came out of the eight-minute media timeout with a heightened focus, scoring nine unanswered points in just over a minute and closing the gap.

Louisville (1-2) went cold from the field, allowing the Lady Toppers (2-1) to tie the game at 39 by halftime and enter the locker room with a wave of confidence.

Western returned with an energized Tiffany Porter-Talbert.

Porter-Talbert, a freshman, scored the first 10 points of the second half, giving the Lady Toppers their first lead since the game’s first possession and enough fire power to silence the Cardinals for the rest of the game.

She led all scorers with 23 points.

“In the first half, we didn’t have the intensity we should have came out with,” Porter-Talbert said. “In the second half, we started pushing the ball. When you go in at halftime you just have to look at the score as being 0-0.”

Senior forward Shala Reese, who finished with 21 points and 10 rebounds, said a better defensive effort in the second half lifted the Lady Toppers to such a big swing and led to a more successful transition game.

Reese also recorded her third straight double-double of the young season.

“We knew that the first 15 minutes was not the way we play basketball,” Reese said. “If you play good defense and don’t get the rebound, what’s the point? You just have to play defense again. You get so tired playing defense. If you play 30 seconds of defense and give up the rebound, then you have to play 30 seconds again.

“It was very physical in the paint, but you just have to take the contact and focus on every shot. After a while, you don’t even think about it any more.”

Louisville head coach Martin Clapp said he wasn’t shocked by Western’s effort on the boards, pointing to the back court as the main factor in his team’s rebounding follies.

Western’s back court combined to out-rebound the Cardinals’ guards 26-16. As a team, the Lady Toppers out-rebounded Louisville 48-32.

“Their rebounding comes from their guards,” Clapp said. “We’re a little smaller than their guards and should be a little quicker. I don’t think we screen out well. … Fundamentally and defensively, they did a better job than we did.”

Of course, the offense didn’t hurt Western’s efforts.

The Lady Toppers finished the game with a 53 percent shooting percentage after shooting 28 percent at one point in the first half.

Kristina Covington rebounded from one of her worst shooting nights in memory Friday night against Clemson, finishing with 18 points. Leslie Logsdon also bounced back scoring 14.

The tandem went a combined 9-for-15 behind the arc.

“At the end of the first half and all the second half, they shot the hell out of the ball,” Louisville guard Sara Nord said. “I don’t think they did anything different defensively, we just were hitting our shots in the second half.”

Nord had a team-high 21 points for the Cardinals.

Western coach Mary Taylor Cowles was concerned in the first half, saying she feared the lack of experience and depth on her team would lead to a total collapse.

But she managed a smile in the post-game press conference after her team’s no-nonsense response.

“They’re going to find a way to win every basketball game,” Cowles said.

As for improvements, she looks to the defense.

“I told Tiffany Porter-Talbert today in shoot around that her whole focus tonight was to not allow Sara Nord to be an All-American. We have to get better defensively at one-on-one and guarding people with the basketball.”

Logsdon shook her head after looking at the stat sheet, finding another problem in her team’s otherwise impressive victory. The Lady Toppers had 21 turnovers to Louisville’s 13.

Logsdon had nine miscues. But she remains impressed with the team’s attitude.

“We know that we have the team to beat any team in the country,” she said. “I think we showed that tonight.”

Lady Tops fall to Clemson

Covington went 2-for-20 and Talbert went 1-for-12 from the field Friday night in a poor shooting performance.

The Lady Toppers lost to Clemson 69-62 in the BB&T classic at home Saturday, finishing the game shooting just over 30 percent from the field.

Reese sparked Western again, grabbing her second double-double of the season (22 points, 15 rebounds).

The Lady Toppers out-rebounded the Lady Tigers 50-36, but failed to shut down the inside play of Amanda White (10 points, 10 rebounds) and shooting talent of Chrissy Floyd, who led all scorers with 17 points.

Reach J. Michael Moore at [email protected]