Owens named to Sun Belt’s all-conference third team

Western Kentucky senior forward LaTeira Owens has been named to the Sun Belt’s all-conference third team, the league announced today.

Owens, who has averaged 11.1 points and 7.7 rebounds this season, was the Lady Toppers’ lone representative on the list.

Florida International sophomore guard Jerica Coley was named the league’s player of the year. Coley ranks third in the nation in scoring at 24 points per game.

Arkansas-Little Rock’s Taylor Gault, Denver’s Kaetlyn Murdoch and Middle Tennessee’s Ebony Rowe and Kortni Jones made up the rest of the first team.

Gault was also named freshman of the year, and Florida Atlantic’s Teri Stamps was tabbed defensive player of the year.

MTSU coach Rick Insell claimed coach of the year honors after leading the Lady Raiders to an undefeated Sun Belt record.

WKU freshman guard Derrick Gordon made the third team on the men’s side.

The full list of the women’s awards is available below:

First Team All-Sun Belt Conference

Taylor Gault (UALR, Fr., G)

Kaetlyn Murdoch (Denver, Sr., F)

Jerica Coley (FIU, So., G)

Ebony Rowe (Middle Tennessee, So., F)

Kortni Jones (Middle Tennessee, Jr., G)

Second Team All-Sun Belt Conference

Jane Morrill (Arkansas State, So. F)

Marian Kursh (UALR, Sr., C)

Emiko Smith (Denver, Jr., G)

Chenise Miller (Florida Atlantic, So., F)

Icelyn Elie (Middle Tennessee, Jr., F)

Third Team All-Sun Belt Conference

Fanni Hutlassa (FIU, RS-Sr., G)

Larrie Williams (Louisiana-Monroe, Sr., C)

Jasmine Godbolt (North Texas, Jr., F)

Mansa El (South Alabama, r-Jr., G)

LaTeira Owens (WKU, Sr., F)

Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year

Jerica Coley (FIU, So., G)

Sun Belt Conference Defensive Player of the Year

Teri Stamps (Florida Atlantic, Sr., G)

Sun Belt Conference Freshman of the Year

Taylor Gault (UALR, Fr., G)

Sun Belt Conference Coach of the Year

Rick Insell, Middle Tennessee

Lady Tops talk about SBC tourney, first-round game vs. ULM

We met with the Lady Toppers on Tuesday to discuss the upcoming Sun Belt Conference Tournament, which begins Saturday.

WKU, the No. 5 seed from the East Division, plays Louisiana-Monroe, the No. 4 seed from the West, in the first round at 12:15 p.m. Saturday at Convention Center Court.

Here are comments from coach Mary Taylor Cowles, senior Vanessa Obafemi and sophomore Chaney Means:

Mary Taylor Cowles

On Louisiana-Monroe:

“They’re a really good transition offense team. It’s going to be important for us to not give them easy things. They’re very aggressive putting the ball on the floor. They’re lead by their point guard, Torres. She does a really, really good job of being aggressive, and she’s very savvy with the basketball. You’ve got to recognize the force inside with Williams. She’s done a good job with her length and her size.”

“They’ve been a lot like us. They’ve been up and down. They’ve had games where they’ve had a really strong half – kind of similar to what we’ve had. I expect it to be a great battle.”

Is there any motivation based on blowing lead at ULM during season?

“At this point, you better be ready to play no matter who the opponent is, whether it’s somebody you beat or lost to. It’s one game at a time.”

Do you try to clean the slate for the postseason?

“I don’t think we have any choice other than to think that way. We’re not where we want to be. We’re not even where we’re used to being. Hopefully we can get our minds right and walk in with the mindset that it’s a whole new beginning.”

How do you string four wins together in four days?

“Putting all of those factors together, play after play, half after half, game after game, that’s what we’ve got to do at this time of the year. That’s what we did last year.”

On last year’s run to the finals:

“These freshmen weren’t necessarily a part of that, and until you are and realize what it takes and what you have to do to get there, I’m not sure you can explain it as a coach. Hopefully our upperclassmen can take that feeling back, but we’ve got to get it done. It’s not going to happen because we were fortunate that it happened last year.”

What’s the feeling like of playing for a championship?

“It’s like the ultimate feeling of knowing everything we’ve been through this year is paying off. That’s why you do what you do – to play for a championship.”

“Last year was really special because of the adversity we had been through as a team. We got off to such a rough start last year, with Amy suspended and opening 0-5. It was unbelievable to wake up that Tuesday morning and head to the gym for a championship game.”

Would you rather be favorite or underdog?

“I’m not real big into how difficult it is to play four games, as opposed to getting the bye. But I’d like to have a bye. I’d rather be starting on Sunday, but it is what it is for this year. We’ll deal with what we’ve got.”

Vanessa Obafemi

“We have a new mindset and mentality. It’s really a new season. We’re going to take it one step at a time, because it’s win-or-go-home now.”

Last year’s run:

“Nobody expected us to make it that far, probably just like this year. We know it’s possible to win four games.”

“I still remember warming up to play Little Rock. We were so close and just missed it. We could almost taste the championship but couldn’t quite get there.”

How do you keep from looking ahead to MTSU in the second round?

“The coaches, they try to get us focused on that one game on Monroe first. But I think we all know in the back of our heads that we have Middle left. We have to take care of Monroe before anything.”

Chaney Means

Talking to the freshmen about last year:

“They weren’t a part of that, so they didn’t get to experience that first-hand. That’s something we can talk to them about. We’re trying to find a new energy, and I think we can do that. We can make a run. We have the talent to go really far.”

Do you want revenge for the close loss at ULM during the season?

“It was a tough game with them. We kind of gave it away at the end, so we’ve been looking forward to playing them again and getting some revenge.”

On ULM’s strengths:

“They have good guards and a point guard that’s very good at distributing. We have to do a better job of rebounding. That hurt us there.”

Postgame comments from both sides of Lady Tops’ loss to MTSU –

Thought I’d pass along a hodge-podge of comments from the Lady Toppers’ 77-62 loss to Middle Tennessee on Sunday’s Senior Day.

Here are some quotes from WKU coach Mary Taylor Cowles, WKU’s Keshia Mosley and Alexis Govan, MTSU coach Rick Insell and MTSU’s Ebony Rowe.

Mary Taylor Cowles

“We just didn’t put two halves together. It was a great effort in the second half. I think it said a lot about our team. We could have responded a totally different way at halftime … but to beat a team like this, you have to put a complete game together.”

“They won every 50-50 ball there was in the entire 40 minutes. I think their press, it wasn’t anything we didn’t know was coming. But we were very careless with the ball. That was something we didn’t do at their place.”

On the player of MTSU’s Ebony Rowe:

“You knew a good player wasn’t going to lay down. We knew coming in that she would be challenged, and their team overall is going for a perfect conference regular season. We knew they would be very motivated and ready to play. She’s too good of a player to think you can hold her completely down.”

Heading into the SBC tourney:

“We’re not going to look back, I can promise you that. We’re looking forward, and we’re going to Hot Springs like everyone else for our third season with a 0-0 record. We know who we’re going to play in the first game, and that’s what we’ve got to concentrate on.”

How tough has this season been personally?

“I don’t know that I can describe it. It’s just been really, really difficult for everybody. For our players, it’s not what they expected. It’s not what they came here for. Our coaching staff is not used to anything like this. We’ve not had days like this. I can’t describe it. Professionally, it’s been the hardest thing that anyone of us has been through. I’ll speak for myself.”

Keshia Mosley

“We’ve got to know how to close up two halves. You come out and fight as much as we did in the second half, we have to put it together.”

Owens getting in early foul trouble:

“It was hard, but that’s why we have teammates and other people that can contribute when something like that happens.”

One last chance in SBC tourney:

“It’s kind of similar to last year. We didn’t have a good season, and then you come around, and we’re 0-0 in a tournament. That’s how we’re taking it.”

Alexis Govan

On her 22 points, big second half:

“I was just trying to fight for the seniors. Everybody before the game was saying that you don’t do it for yourself. Do it for the seniors. That’s all I kept thinking.”

Rick Insell

“The first thing that I want to get clear is that I don’t dislike Western Kentucky fans, and I don’t dislike Western Kentucky. I just don’t like the color red. Write that down, because I do respect your fans because of the tradition here, and it’s a basketball school.”

“There’s 12 teams in this conference. Nine of them, including Western Kentucky, have a legitimate chance to win the Sun Belt Conference Tournament. Maybe a lot of you don’t believe that, but that’s what I’m preaching.”

“I try to stir Western up a bit, but I enjoy playing here because they appreciate the game. I don’t dislike anybody up here. And secretly, I will tell you this, I have spent money in Bowling Green. I’ve got a Corvette, and I go over to the museum a lot and buy things.”

Ebony Rowe

On her 27-point performance:

“He was saying that I needed a big performance. With all my family being here, he wanted me to put on a performance for them. Our shootaround was so focused, and everyone was so excited. We knew we had this game won before we even stepped up on the court.”

WKU AD Bjork comments on state of Lady Topper program

For the first time this season, Western Kentucky athletic director Ross Bjork commented on the Lady Topper basketball program after WKU’s 77-62 loss Sunday to Middle Tennessee on Senior Day at E.A. Diddle Arena.

The defeat gave the Lady Toppers’ the first 20-loss season in program history, and they finished 6-7 at Diddle Arena – the first losing home record in 32 years.

Below are Bjork’s comments on the state of the program. He stopped short of directly addressing coach Mary Taylor Cowles’ job security, with the Sun Belt Tournament still to play.

Bjork said the program as a whole will be evaluated shortly after the end of the season.

Ross Bjork

“We completely understand that the expectations of this program are to compete for and win championships. That’s what Diddle Arena stands for with all the banners, going to Final Fours. The expectations are very high. Anytime that you have a record like we have, people are asking questions about the program. Our job is to restore confidence back in the program, and we have to find a way to do that.”

“We have games left to play, so we want to give our ladies and coaches full confidence heading into Hot Springs. We know that the expectations are high, and that’s what we love. People expect us to win and be in the hunt. That’s what we expect, that’s what Mary expects.”

“My hope is that we go into Hot Springs and we play with confidence, we play with inspiration. We have one choice, and that’s to win the tournament and advance. From there, we’ve got to have confidence back in the program. The parallels are very similar to the men, in terms of energy back in the program. We have to find a way to do that heading into the future.”

Will you evaluate the program and coaching staff after the season?

“With the exception of the decision we made on the men’s side, that’s what we do with all of our sports. You have a full body of work, and obviously we didn’t make a change on the women’s side. That wasn’t the plan, nor did we need to. We needed to let the season play out, and we still have season left to play. The decision we made on the men’s side was very unusual, with the dynamics much different.”

Is the recent decline in attendance a concern?

“Same kind of analysis – the energy back in the program. We have great women’s basketball fans, but their expectations are high, just like ours. That is a concern, and again, that’s the confidence level back in the program. I think our fans love our young ladies. There’s always been a deep connection with our team beyond the games, where they get to know our players beyond the games.”

“We’ve got to get back to fans coming out to support this team. We’ve gone down in our attendance. Our average attendance is lower than what we expect.”

The need to be more competitive in the Sun Belt:

“That’s a good testament to our conference, that we’ve had multiple teams in our conference (make the NCAA tournament). We’ve got to get back to the top two or three spots because if we’re in those spots, we can be an at-large spot. Our charge is getting back in that position, and then we’re in the hunt. That gives us motivation to get our program back to where we’re competing for championships.”

Talking turnovers: Lady Tops’ postgame comments after ASU loss

It was a sloppy, sloppy game for the Lady Toppers tonight, turning the ball over 28 times in a 56-53 home loss to Arkansas State.

The turnovers were pretty much the theme of the postgame, so I’ll leave it at that. You can read all about the game with two stories in Thursday’s BGDN.

Here are comments from coach Mary Taylor Cowles and seniors LaTeira Owens and Vanessa Obafemi:

Mary Taylor Cowles

On the turnovers:

“You’re not going to win basketball games turning the ball over 28 times. That’s a proven fact. We’ve proven that in games past, but the biggest concern is consecutive games in mid-February.”

“You’re not going to find yourself in a winning situation turning it over 28 times. Our competition’s too tough. It’s too good.”

“We bust back out at South Al and then again tonight with careless, careless effort. That’s very intrguing as a coach because you work hard to get the ball back defensively … and you don’t even give yourself an opportunity 28 times. That’s frustrating.”

“You prefaced that by saying I’ve said it several times. That’s where the frustration comes in. It’s not like one game we were unprepared. It’s happened over and over again this year where we’ve known exactly what was going to happen, and we’ve been extremely careless with the basketball – almost nonchalant, lackadaisical. I don’t know what word to use other than ‘frustrating’ because it continues to end in the same results for our basketball team.”

“I don’t think this is confusion. I don’t think this 28 turnovers is confusion at all, because we’re running the same stuff we’ve run all year long. I think it’s a lack of focus. I think we just lose our minds.”

Missing layups:

“There were five in the first half that we missed. We talked about that at halftime. That’s the hard part of coaching, trying to figure out how to solve those problems. To be honest, we’ve missed layups all year long. That’s been a monkey on our back.”

The challenge Sunday against MTSU:

“You would hope there’s enough of a pride factor going on. It’s our last opportunity as a team to play in this gym, but pride’s not going to get us through a win on Sunday.”

“I think they’re smart enough to realize we’ve got one game left in our regular season, and that’s it. That’s all the time we have left. I haven’t actually said those words, but time’s running out.”

Vanessa Obafemi

On opportunities despite turnovers:

“We put ourselves in a bad position, having 28 turnovers. At the same time, we got two good looks. We weren’t able to knock it down.”

“That was exactly how the play was drawn up. I had three screens to get open, and my teammates did a great job. I was wide open.”

“Sunday’s going to be a really big game, considering how our season is going and that it’s senior night. We just have to go out and give it our all.”

LaTeira Owens

On the turnovers and missed layups:

“Turnovers in February isn’t good. Twenty-eight turnovers in February, that’s taking away 28 chances that we could have scored, got fouled, got a good shot. It’s coming down to the wire that we need to focus on whatever is going on with the ball.”

“We’ve been talking about layups in practice – layups and turnovers. Making layups, rebounding and making free throws – that’s the way to win a ballgame.”

Lady Tops prepare for Arkansas State, tourney play

We met with the Lady Toppers on Tuesday afternoon to discuss tonight’s 7:30 p.m. home game against Arkansas State.

WKU is coming off a 70-33 loss to South Alabama, the Lady Tops’ lowest offensive output since the 1974-75 season.

WKU is locked into the No. 5 seed in the Sun Belt East Division, but it can secure its 32nd consecutive winning season at home.

Here are comments from coach Mary Taylor Cowles and seniors Vanessa Obafemi and Jasmine Johnson:

Mary Taylor Cowles

What happened at South Alabama?

“We had a bad game. I don’t know how to summarize it other than that. It was a bad day for our basketball team. I don’t have excuses. I don’t have explanations. It was just a bad day.”

“It was surprising for all of us. There was no indication of that, and I think our girls are as surprised as our staff was.”

Can you basically throw away the film of that game?

“What are you going to learn from it? There’s nothing to learn from that film. I don’t think there’s anything positive that can come out of that situation, and this week, we need to be positive.”

What can be gained this week with seeding already decided?

“You’re playing to win. Thats’ why we play the game. The tournament may already be seeded at this point, but I promise you these ladies are excited about these last two regular season games. There’s a pride factor.”

On ASU’s strengths:

“Morrill is a true force inside that I really like because she has the ability to step out and pop at the 3-point line. When you throw Hurst in there, Watson in there, McDowell in there – there are other kids that know what they’re trying to accomplish.”

Vanessa Obafemi

“Our past game was a really disappointing loss just because of the lack of pride we played with, not fighting back and having passion. We’re just forgetting about it.”

Jasmine Johnson

What happened at South Al?

“I don’t know where our mindset was Saturday, but yesterday’s practice, we did really good. We came to get ready and better ourselves.”

“Nothing went our way, and when it didn’t go our way, we went down with it.”

How do you respond to a very bad game after a good stretch of basketball?

“It’s hard trying to work through it. There are five seniors, and then you have all the babies – the underclassmen – and it’s kind of hard teaching them how to keep going. When we mess sometimes, we get down on ourselves too much.”

“When we played Middle that week, we took like 10 steps up. But then Saturday, we dropped back like 20 steps. It’s hard teaching them how to bounce back, but this week, we’ll show everyone that we can still do it.”