MIAMI, Fla. — Despite four players scoring in double figures and a season high 20 assists as a team, WKU dropped an 87-82 decision at FIU Saturday night in Miami after the Panthers torched the nets for 57.4 percent shooting in the game. The loss is WKU's third-straight and moves the Hilltoppers' record to 13-14 overall and 7-9 in conference play. FIU improves to 14-12 overall and 9-8 in the league with the victory.
WKU was led by T.J. Price's 22 points, thanks in part to a career high six three-pointers, and six assists. Jamal Crook added 18 points, and George Fant poured in 17 to go along with six rebounds. Teeng Akol scored 11 points in 17 minutes off the bench for the Hilltoppers, who had 20 assists on 25 made baskets as a team and shot 50.0 percent as a group from the floor with eight three-pointers.
FIU was paced by 20 points apiece from Jerome Frink and Tymell Murphy. Two other Panthers were in double figures. WKU outrebounded FIU in the game 33-22, and the game featured three ties and eight lead changes.
WKU fell down early at the start, but a 9-0 scoring burst gave the Hilltoppers their first lead of the game at 24-23. Fant and Aleksejs Rostov each made a pair of free throws, and after WKU forced a Panther turnover Rostov hit a jumper and Price followed with a three-pointer, forcing FIU to call a timeout.
The two teams traded baskets in the final few minutes of the half, and FIU took a 42-38 lead into the locker room after a Murphy layup at the buzzer. Six different Hilltoppers scored in the first 20 minutes, led by Akol's nine points. The Hilltoppers had 11 assists on 12 made baskets, and the WKU bench scored 19 points. Murphy led FIU with 14 tallies on 5-of-7 shooting.
WKU shot 60.0 percent in the first half (12-for-20), and FIU converted at a 62.5 percent clip (15-for-24). The two teams combined to make eight three-pointers in the first half.
FIU turned the four-point lead into 10 less than three minutes into the second half, and the Panthers led by as many as 15 points on three separate occasions in the final 10 minutes of the half.
WKU found itself trailing by 10 with 2:18 to go at 80-70, but the Hilltoppers went on a quick 6-0 run and had the game within four at 80-76 with 35 ticks showing on the clok after Price's fifth three-pointer of the night.
But FIU made seven of eight free throws in the final 30 seconds to seal the victory, just its second over WKU in the last 11 meetings.
After shooting 60.0 percent as a team in the first half, WKU went 13-for-30 in the second 20 minutes (.433).
WKU finishes the regular season with three of its last four games at home, beginning Thursday night at 7:00 against ULM. Fans can get two reserved bleacher tickets to Thursday's game for $15.00 and four tickets for $30.00 as part of Thrifty Thursday at E.A. Diddle Arena.
Thursday's game will be televised by the Hilltopper Sports Satellite Network, airing nationally on ESPN3 and ESPN Full Court, regionally on WKYU-PBS and in Louisville on WBNA. The games will also be broadcast on the radio on the Hilltopper IMG Sports Network with Randy Lee and Hal Schmitt on the call.
Tickets for the 2012-13 WKU basketball season are on sale now and can be purchased online at WKUSports.com or by calling the WKU Ticket Office at 1-800-5-BIG RED or 745-5222 locally.