Hilltoppers continue Conference USA winning ways in 71-66 win over UTEP


They’ve done it again. I don’t know how, so don’t ask…but they’ve done it. The Hilltoppers found away to combat another double-figure deficit and with every body pitching in, moved to 6-0 in conference play after defeating UTEP 71-66 in overtime, in front of Courtney Lee and a near packed Diddle Arena.

The first half, again, wasn’t the prettiest 20 minutes for WKU. At the break, WKU was shooting just 28.6 percent from the floor, and ended the half with zero points over the final 6:29. The one saving grace was three made Trency Jackson free throws with 0.3 to play. In that time span, the Tops were also 0-7 from the floor and turned the ball over six times.

The Tops defense in transition in the opening 20 minutes was nearly non-existent, as UTEP would press Chris Harrison-Docks and T.J. Price and force turnovers then turn them into a flashy pair of points on the other end.

It took a while, but eventually it became more of the type of game I thought it’d be – very back and forth, where any basket could give the other team a lead. UTEP started the second half hot but the Tops would eventually catch up and take all the momentum and have just enough left in the tank to finally pull away in overtime.

There are two really shocking statistics on the UTEP side of things. First off – the Miners hit 50% from the free throw line, and those stats are a bit padded with some really good overtime shooting. But, in regulation, it was real bad. Also, UTEP didn’t hit a single three point shot. Zero. Zilch. Nada. 0-17 from downtown.

On the flip side of things, the Tops shot 62.5% from the stripe and 28.6 percent from downtown. Not terrible, but not fantastic either. The Tops actually started the game 3-6 from beyond the arc, but didn’t convert on their next five attempts.

 George Fant extended his double-double streak, now at seven straight games, but had 10 very quiet points, but his rebounds were not so quiet. Ben Lawson had a stellar outing, scoring 10 points and grabbing five rebounds. Outside of tangible stats, he played like we’ve been waiting for him to play as well, going body-on-body down low and not getting pushed around. If he can consistently play like this…watch out.

When it was all said and done, five Hilltoppers scored in double figures, which was refreshing to see after having to rely heavily on Fant and T.J. Price in the first few games this conference season. The one bummer is that most of the production game in the second half, but still production from more than just the two you’d expect. Baby steps.

One final thing – the crowd was phenomenal. I don’t know how it was at UofL or ODU, but if those games were half of what tonight was, you WKU fans are getting the message. This team is exciting and worth coming to see, so come.

In fact, the next chance you get to see the Tops play is Saturday, at two, against UTSA. So come.