WKU falls in close outing against #4 Louisville


Tempers flared, punches were thrown, and basketball was played in the Commonwealth. When you take two traditions like WKU and Louisville, you can expect things to be heated, and they were exactly that.

The Hilltoppers came into this game having won three of their last four outings, with an overall record of 5-4, while the Cardinals entered boasting a #4 rank with an undefeated record. So basically, the red birds blew out the Tops, correct? False. A Hilltopper team that is renowned for playing either up or down to competition, which we have frequently seen this season (Loss to Belmont 63-64; Win at Ole Miss 81-74) played Louisville close for nearly all the game but dropped the contest 76-67.

The Hilltoppers came out in the first half placing the first points on the board with a George Fant jumper, and would keep Louisville neck and neck all the way to the nine-minute marker. That’s when the Cards jumped out to a lead that stretched all the way to 13 points with a score of 28-15. Then the Hilltoppers would slowly make their way back into the ball game with a seven-point deficit. That’s when the 38-second mark hit the clock.

Why is that of any significance? That’s when the intensity of the ball game shot through the rafters of EA Diddle Arena as Montrezl Harrell opted to throw a punch towards WKU’s Avery Patterson. This action would result in technical fouls coming from the team’s benches, technical fouls on DJ Clayton and Harrell, and eventually the ejection of Harrell for the game and also a penalization for next game as well. After all was said and done, the Tops would just have a 5 point deficit behind the number 4 team in the nation heading into halftime. Sounds like a pretty fun setting doesn’t it? The fans in Diddle Arena thought so, and made sure they were heard.

The crowd was the best I have ever seen in Diddle Arena, as today’s attendance stood at 7,598 fans which is the third largest crowd since the arena underwent renovations in 2002-03. T.J. Price even commented on the crowd on hand for today, saying he appreciated it and thought it was amazing.

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On to the second half; the pace stayed the same and the Hilltoppers kept finding ways to stay in the game. But,

Terry Rozier

would make it near impossible for WKU to stay within three, as he seemed to always hit the big shot. Rozier finished his outing leading all scorers with 32 points. The Tops would continuously find themselves down by just four or five points with great defensive efforts, and then would struggle for a small period of time resulting in a 10-point deficit. WKU ultimately stayed in the ball game until around the one-minute mark when they were only down by five points. After a string of missed shots and fouls the Hilltoppers sent Rozier back to the free throw line with 18 seconds remaining to solidify the final score.

Ultimately, yes, the Hilltoppers lost this ball game, but they finished out the evening keeping the number FOUR team in the nation within just 9 points for a final score. A Cardinal team that has wins over Minnesota (whom WKU lost to by 22), Marshall (Louisville won 85-67; WKU lost to the Herd in non-conference play last year), and a nine-point win over at the time #13 Ohio State (basically I’m saying WKU is as good as Ohio State since they just lost by nine as well. Just kidding! Or am I?). So how can a Hilltopper fan be mad with a performance we saw today?

Some things that undermined WKU’s performance today was definitely the free throws. The Hilltoppers shot 15-of-25 from the line (60%), while Louisville knocked down 26-of-30 (87%). In order to win big games, the freebies have come with a high percentage, otherwise, you lose in close games, which we saw today. Coach Harper commented on the free throws:

"We’ve got to get in the gym and shoot free throw, which we’ve been doing. Some games we make them, some games we don’t. – Ray Harper on WKU’s free throw shooting against Louisville"

He also elaborated that when in high intensity games against big teams, you have to make them, or you lose.

Also, once again the turnovers were quite high, standing at 15. But considering whom the Tops played today, I’ll be more relaxed than usually when discussing the overturns. Overall WKU shot 38% from the floor compared to Louisville’s 42%, but WKU definitely won the 3-point game as the Tops knocked down 43% from behind the arc (UL shot 27%).

High points for the Hilltoppers included T.J. Price with another astounding outing as he racked up 24 points, and played all day with the senior leadership this team needed in this game. Another high scorer for the Tops was freshman D.J. Clayton who totaled 14 on the day. Coach Harper also commented on the young players outing, “He was terrific, I think he gave you a glimpse of his future today.”

The Hilltoppers gave the number 4 team in the nation quite a scare today, and it is definitely one to remember. The series now stands even at 39-39 between the two schools. The current contract for the series has one more game remaining that will be played in 2015 at the KFC Yum! Center. As for furthering the series even longer, that has yet to be determined. However, freshman D.J. Clayton has his own thoughts on the issue. “I want to take another shot at them.”