Lady Tops’ season ends with loss to MTSU — postgame comments

The Lady Toppers’ season ended Sunday with a loss to Middle Tennessee in the quarterfinals of the Sun Belt Conference Tournament in Hot Springs, Ark.

Here are postgame comments, per BGDN writer Chad Bishop, from WKU coach Mary Taylor Cowles, as well as MTSU coach Rick Insell and players Ebony Rowe and Kortni Jones.

Cowles commented on her future as head coach, opinions surrounding the program and the outgoing senior class.

Mary Taylor Cowles   
“Well they’re just too good of a basketball team for us to have the kind of half we had in the first half and for us to turn the ball over the number of times that we did. That’s been a problem for us this entire season. We just simply continued that (Saturday), got lucky against (Louisiana-)Monroe. Against a team like  Middle, you’re not gonna really get that luck to sway on your side when you give the ball away 27 times. I was proud of our team in the second half continuing to fight. I’m sure Middle wanted to bury us there in the second half and our team could’ve laid down and allowed that to happen. Instead our young ladies continued to fight and continued to fight hard and that just represents the three letters on the front of our jerseys. I’m very, very proud of them for that.”

Was this your last game as WKU coach: “My passion is to coach basketball. If that’s their decision, we’ll move forward.”

Freshmen: “I think we knew as a staff what we had youth-wise this year and how good our youth was. I think you saw in the second half. I think at one point we had four freshman on the floor, especially when made the run that we made I think we had four freshman on the floor and Jasmine (Johnson). That takes time. You got to be patient with youth and I really like this coaching staff, that was another change that was made. This coaching staff is very talented, very knowledgeable and very passionate about the game.”

Danay Fothergill: “I think our entire staff would tell you that if we were going to war and we had to pick one young lady, I think everyone would just pick Danay Fothergill. She’s a fighter. She knows how to battle. She has a real demeanor that’s unmatched by anybody that we have on our basketball team. It’s not surprising that she continued to play as hard as she did, being the fighter that she is. That just describes Danay Fothergill – she’s a fighter.”

Critics of the state of the program: “It’s easy for me because I don’t Facebook, or Twitter or read the newspaper and I don’t get on the Internet so it’s pretty easy for me. This group is just excited about being at WKU. We don’t really talk about it, that stuff doesn’t really get discussed in our locker room or in our offense. For those people that read it or are a part of posting it or whatever else, that’s a different story. Unless you know the inner-workings of our program, you really don’t know what our program is really about. These young ladies were definitely about trying to continue to fight because we didn’t have a good season, we didn’t have a typical season. It is what it is. I know these young ladies are very, very hungry – the ones that are coming back. As far as the seniors, their opportunity is over, that chapter is closed and onward they go.”

Seniors’ message afterward: “No, there was nothing said by them.”

Seniors: “I think the best thing is, one of them is already graduated and the other four will be graduated by this summer. I think that’s just a strong part of our program and what our program is about as far as taking care of each other and making sure they’re prepared and equipped for what comes after when basketball’s over. I think this group, especially Jasmine (Johnson) – she’s kind of been a mother hen to this group. She’s really put her arms around them and tried to teach them and tried to comfort them. Whether it’s Ileana (Johnson) who’s so far from home, or Alexis, or maybe it’s one of them after a not-so-good game. I think she’s just been extremely encouraging. I think they’ve had a lot more team socials together off the basketball court. I think that’s been really fortunate for this group.”

Optimistic for future: “I think recruiting is a never-ending process. While we are very, very optimistic about our freshmen, you got to continue to recruit and recruit and recruit. But this group of freshmen, they’re good, they just need experience and they need time.”

MTSU pace of play: “I think their press is what really disturbs you because when you turn the ball over 27 times, then that kind of puts you in a little bit of a panic. We’ve seen that. We saw that Sunday at our place and we saw it again today. That was not what our character was like at their place about a month ago. But I think when their press baits you into the turnovers that we’ve committed then you get a little bit panicky because of the fact that they’re scoring easy transition baskets. We really don’t have a defense designed for that kind of turnover. When we turned the ball over at halfcourt and (Shanice) Cason picks it up and throws it ahead to (Kortni) Jones for a wide-open layup, we don’t have a defense designed to stop that. I think that gets extremely frustrating.”

Ebony Rowe    

“Before the game, coach told us it would come down to who wanted in the most. He said our best game is coming when we play good defense. We knew that our defense was gonna have to win us the game tonight.”

Focus on her: “They were just packing in the lane and we saw a lot of doubles teams. That’s nothing new for us. Everyone knows they’re gonna pack it in. I told my guards before we went out there, ‘Look they’re gonna pack it in on me, so this is ya’lls night. Ya’ll better step up and hit shots,’ and that’s exactly what they did. I think that’s the beauty of our team. We don’t have one superstar, or two superstars – we have seven people that are scoring. If they pack it in the lane, Kortni, Lauren March, Laken – all them are gonna knock down shots. I credit them for their defense, but we just adjusted to it because we knew it was gonna come.”

Kortni Jones    

Steals/turnovers: “I feel like its a really big momentum breaker. I know for myself, if I pass it and someone steals it, the next possession you’re kinda timid. You kinda try to pass it, but you don’t try to pass it. It kinda of plays with their head. That’s all I was trying to do. We practice situations like that where you let them pass it a few times and then go for a steal and get it. Of course, it’s a momentum breaker.”

WKU’s run: “That’s what they did when they made the trip to Western Kentucky, we were up, what, 20 at the half? And all of a sudden we’re only up 10. That’s just how teams play us. Everyone wants to beat us. Just something we’ve always dealt with and if we can put a strong foot forward and put the pedal to the metal when we need to, we feel like we can come out with the win.”

Rick Insell    

“You gotta give Western Kentucky credit. They didn’t quit. They battled. They cut it to nine. They did some things they had to do. They did a good job defensing Ebony inside. Ice(lyn Elie) got in foul trouble, Kortni kinda took over and did what she’s done all year, led us to a victory.”

Top SBC program: “Really and truly we feel like we’ve got one of the top 15 programs in the country. We believe that in Murfressboro. I don’t know what everybody else believes, but we believe we’ve got one of the top 15 programs in the country. We’ve had one of the top 15 programs in the country the last five years. The schedule that we play, we play a national schedule, we play on a national platform. Any time we have a big game in the Murphy Center, we’re running from about 8-10,000 people. We’re very proud of what we got right now.”

Danay Fothergill: “She just got hot. She just got hot. We missed her on some rebounds and some box-outs and she just knocked ’em down. When a shooter gets hot, man, they want that basketball. We were out there on her. We had a hand on the ball and a hand in the face. She still knocked them down, give her credit. She hasn’t got a whole lot of lateral quickness, but she’s got great touch. She did a good job, she kept them in the game.”


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