MOBILE, Ala. — Western Kentucky’s old nemesis, turnovers, reared its ugly head again Wednesday night.
The Lady Toppers (15-4, 8-2 Sun Belt Conference) threw it away 23 times – compared with four assists – in a 56-46 loss to South Alabama at the Mitchell Center.
It was the lowest offensive output for Western Kentucky since scoring 33 on Feb. 18 at South Alabama.
“We practice how we play, and we just need to practice good and not try and turn it over during practice and carry it over in the games,” WKU freshman Jalynn McClain said. “Sometimes we’re all not focused and we all have to be locked in and carry it over.”
Chastity Gooch recorded another double-double – her 16th of the season – by scoring 14 points and collecting 14 rebounds. Alexis Govan added 10 points in the losing effort.
The Lady Toppers trailed by seven with 3:08 left but could get no closer.
“I think we cut it to seven, had two or three crucial turnovers,” WKU coach Michelle Clark-Heard said. “We can’t rebound at the end when they miss 1-and-1 bonuses. We’ve got to rebound. That was one of the things we were really afraid of and we’ve got to be able to take care of the ball.”
The Lady Toppers started the evening on a 9-2 run thanks to buckets by Govan, Chaney Means, Gooch and a 3 by Bianca McGee.
South Alabama responded with a 13-2 run of its own, getting six from Bianca Wright off the bench during the spurt.
Wright’s bucket out of an inbound play gave USA its first lead at 12-11, and a 3 from Camille Reynolds ended the run at 15-11. The Lady Tops would never lead again.
Heard called timeout after Reynolds hit a second uncontested 3 at 20-15.
The move didn’t work to slow down the Lady Jags, as South Alabama answered with a 13-5 run that included six more from Wright and a 3 from Mansa El out of the right corner that made it 33-20.
In a moment indicative of WKU’s first-half defensive effort, Veronica Cherizol split the lane and made an open runner at the buzzer to give South Alabama a 35-22 lead at the break.
The Lady Jags shot 14 of 31 from the floor and turned the ball over four times in the first half compared with WKU’s 11. They also scored 12 points off Lady Topper miscues.
Reynolds and Wright scored 24 of their team’s 35 first-half points.
Western Kentucky got within 10 to start the second half after separate single free-throw makes from McClain, four points from Gooch and a Govan free throw at 38-29.
McGee got it to 44-37 with 8:35 to play, and McClain made it 46-41 a few minutes later with an offensive putback.
Reynolds delivered the knockout blow with four minutes to play when she hit another 3 to give USA a 51-41 lead.
Wright scored 20 for USA and Reynolds added 16. The Jags’ bench outscored WKU 25-13.
Western Kentucky travels to Middle Tennessee on Sunday.