Cowles, Owens and Govan discuss No. 8 Duke, death of Kurt Budke

WKU coach Mary Taylor Cowles, senior forward LaTeira Owens and freshman guard Alexis Govan met with the media Friday to discuss Sunday’s home game against No. 8 Duke.

There were some good anecdotes from the day, including that Govan used to root for Duke growing up simply to spite her brother, a North Carolina fan.

Owens also revealed that the Lady Toppers, who made just 7 of 20 free throws Tuesday at Northwestern, must make a certain amount of attempts before they’re allowed to leave practice.

Asked if that number has risen since they returned from Northwestern, Owens and Govan looked at each other and smiled. “Yes,” Owens said.

Cowles also spoke Friday about the passing of Oklahoma State coach Kurt Budke, who died Thursday night in a plane crash during a recruiting trip in Arkansas. Budke’s longtime assistant coach Miranda Serna and two others also died in the crash.

Budke, who was formerly head coach at WKU rival Louisiana Tech, was Cowles’ opponent in her very first game as head coach in 2002-03.

The Lady Toppers tip against Duke at 2 p.m. Sunday in E.A. Diddle Arena.

Mary Taylor Cowles

On the death of Oklahoma State coach Kurt Budke:

“I just can’t imagine what that program and those individuals are feeling and going through. It’s just such a major loss, and you sit and wonder, ‘Why?'”

“The first thing that popped in my mind was that I coached against him in my very first game as head coach. He was always so considerate and such a nice person. He was always so professional and easy to talk to out in the coaching world – just a very pleasant person to be around. It’s just so unfortunate. You wonder how people pick up the pieces and move on, but they’re definitely in our prayers and our thoughts.”

On what to expect from No. 8 Duke:

“They’re a nationally-ranked team, and for very good reasons. They’re very talented at every position, and they’ve got depth coming off the bench. When they sub, they just don’t lose much.”

“They’re going to mix some things up on us defensively and extend some pressure. They’re very good in transition, and that’s something we haven’t been real good at. Getting back on defense has to be in the forefront of our mind. They’re very good at penetrating with the basketball, and while their post game is very well known, their guard play is just extremely talented.”

“We feel like we’re familiar with Duke just because of the fact that we’ve played them the last three years. But at the same time, they’re a very good team and nationally ranked for a reason every year. While we might understand what they do, we still have to get out there and get it done.”

On the Lady Toppers’ turnover woes:

“We can’t continue to turn the ball over in the 20s. We’ve got to take care of the basketball and really understand the meaning of how precious that ball is when we’ve got it.”

On Duke guard Chelsea Gray:

“She’s a very physical guard. She gets out and runs so well in transition, and I think with a player like her, you have to keep her in front of you, or try your best to.”

On Govan earning her first start against Northwestern:

“There’s a little innocence with freshmen as they enter their career in terms of simply not knowing, and sometimes that’s a good thing because they just get out there and play. I think our freshmen have done well with that. That’s something Alexis earned and deserved and was granted because of her work ethic.”

“Alexis has a unique way of trying to keep things in perspective. I think sometimes for a freshman that may be hard to do, but her personality allows her to have fun with it all, but at the same time understand there’s a serious side. I shouldn’t say take it lightly, but keep it in perspective where it needs to be. Putting her in the starting lineup didn’t change her one bit. I’m sure it made her really happy, but it didn’t cause her to relax any.”

LaTeira Owens

On what to expect from Duke:

“Duke is an athletic team, they have height, they work hard on defense. That’s the main thing we’ll have to worry about. We have to protect the ball on offense and get stops on defense because they are a scoring team.”

“They’re long and athletic. They’re a Duke team. From the past, they run the ball like we do, transition, rebound.”

“I don’t really look at them like they’re No. 8. They’re just another team on our schedule that we need to beat.”

Alexis Govan

On getting to play the Blue Devils:

“It’s pretty exciting. I’ve watched Duke. Growing up, my brother was a North Carolina fan, so I’ve liked Duke because they’re the opposite of North Carolina, and I didn’t want to be like my brother. Knowing they’re coming in here at No. 8, it’s exciting.”

On freshmen earning playing time:

“We’re adjusting well, but we’re still having those little freshmen moments. Coach (Camryn) Whitaker has just been talking to all of us and reminding us that we are freshmen and we’re going to make mistakes. It is the big time, but we have to play through our mistakes and remember at the end of the day, it’s basketball.”

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