Lady Tops defeat Middle Tennessee 71-63

Western Kentucky guard Whitney Creech (center) drives to the lane during WKU’s 71-63 win over Middle Tennessee on Saturday at E. A. Diddle Arena.

The importance of the last two games wasn’t lost on Greg Collins and his Western Kentucky women’s basketball team.

An 0-2 start put the Lady Toppers in a hole to start Conference USA play, but with the league results after the first week, WKU had its next four scheduled games against teams, at that point, with one conference loss. It gave the Lady Toppers an opportunity to move back up in the standings in what Collins called a “four-game tournament,” which he compared to being in the consolation bracket of a double-elimination tournament.

WKU took care of business in the second week of conference play by knocking off UAB 69-65 on Thursday and Middle Tennessee 71-63 on Saturday at E.A. Diddle Arena, and now face road tests at Old Dominion and Charlotte in the coming week.

“We’re where we wanted to be right now considering the hole we put ourselves in, but we’re not where our goal is. Our goal is to go on the road and play better and try to get two of these on the road and try to put ourselves back at the top of this conference,” Collins said following Saturday’s win. “Then we would have a tiebreaker over all of the top teams except for Rice. We can only control what we can control right now, and that’s the games we have in front of us.”

Old Dominion was 1-1 entering Saturday’s slate of games after opening C-USA play with a 67-56 win at Middle Tennessee and losing 76-65 at UAB. Charlotte was also 1-1 at that point, with an 83-75 win at UAB and an 83-59 loss at Middle Tennessee. On Saturday, Old Dominion handed Charlotte its second C-USA loss by beating the Niners 54-51.

WKU opened conference play with losses at North Texas and Rice, but followed with the wins over the two teams the Lady Toppers’ next two opponents had mixed results against, which gives WKU an opportunity to get a leg up this week.

“After we kind of put ourselves in a hole on the road in Texas, coach Collins said that these next four games are like a championship,” WKU senior point guard Whitney Creech said following Saturday’s win. “We have to win each of these games to get ourselves out of this hole so we can contend to get a season championship or just get a bye for the tournament. We take this very seriously and we have two tough games on the road that we really need to win.”

Outside of Rice, the defending champion and preseason favorite this year, the league has shown balance the first two weeks of the conference schedule. The Owls are the only unbeaten team remaining in conference play at 4-0 and, with no team having played more than four league games so far, 10 of the 14 teams in C-USA have already been handed two losses. Louisiana Tech, the only team without a conference win entering Saturday, beat UTEP, the only other unbeaten team in conference play at that point, 87-80.

“I think this year the league is probably more balanced than it has ever been since I’ve been here,” Creech said. “There’s probably seven, eight teams that could really be contenders and really beat anybody on any night. We have to come out and play every game.”

The two crucial games coming up add the additional challenge of being on the road, where the Lady Toppers have just a 3-5 record this season, as opposed to the team’s unbeaten 6-0 mark at E.A. Diddle Arena. The Lady Toppers have lost the last three games they’ve played on the road. WKU also beat Tulsa at Saint Mary’s in the Saint Mary’s Thanksgiving Classic.

Collins doesn’t believe his team has put a full game together on the road to this point. He says the team has played well for two or three quarters away from home, but knows it’ll take a full 40-minute effort while not letting offensive production dictate how they play, instead focusing on aspects of the game like defense and rebounding.

“Now, our challenge is to be more consistent on the road at Old Dominion and Charlotte and try to get ourselves in a spot where we’re back in the top of the conference and competing for a bye in this thing.”{&end}

– Follow sports reporter Jared MacDonald on Twitter @JMacDonaldSport or visit


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