BOWLING GREEN, Ky. — WKU closed out the home portion of the 2013-14 regular season with a 75-72 win over Louisiana-Lafayette Thursday night at E.A. Diddle Arena, securing the second seed and a double-bye to the semifinals in the upcoming Sun Belt Conference Tournament and notching the program's 42nd 20-win season. The win improves WKU's record to 20-10 overall and 12-5 in league play, and Louisiana-Lafayette falls to 19-11 and 10-7.
WKU moves to 17-4 under head coach Ray Harper in games played on or after February 21. WKU finishes the home slate with a 13-4 record at E.A. Diddle Arena, the program's most home victories since winning 13 in both 2007-08 and 2008-09. The 42 20-win seasons rank eighth in NCAA history, and this 20-win season was the first to come in the regular season since 2008-09.
WKU was led by George Fant's 18 points and nine rebounds, and Chris Harrison-Docks hit 10 free throws en route to 15 points. T.J. Price added 13 points and six rebounds, and senior O'Karo Akamune tied a career high with 10 points. Seniors Caden Dickerson and Brandon Harris also played their final home games in a WKU uniform and finished with five and three points, respectively. Louisiana-Lafayette's Elfrid Payton led all scorers with 31 points, and he also had 13 rebounds.
Harrison-Docks hit a three-pointer at the buzzer in front of the Ragin' Cajun bench to give WKU a 37-34 lead at the break in a back-and-forth first half featuring four ties and seven lead changes. Seven Hilltoppers scored in the first half, led by Trency Jackson and T. Price with seven points apiece. The Hilltoppers shot 51.7 percent in the first half (15-for-29) and held Louisiana-Lafayette to 35.3 percent shooting (12-for-34).
The Ragin' Cajuns won the battle of the boards, 24-14, and Louisiana-Lafayette had 14 offensive rebounds that led to 12 second-chance points.
The biggest lead for either team was a 12-6 Louisiana-Lafayette lead with just 4:44 gone by in the game.
The start of the second half was played as close as the first half was, as neither team had a lead of more than four points for the first 12 minutes of the second period. After two Payton free throws to cut the WKU lead from four points to 55-53, the Hilltoppers scored six-straight to take its largest lead of the game at 61-53 with 5:28 to play in the game.
The Ragin' Cajuns mustered one field goal in the next 90 seconds, and WKU kept a 61-55 lead at the under-4:00 media timeout.
Both teams hit big shot after big shot in the final four minutes, but WKU never lost the lead despite Louisiana-Lafayette coming within one possession three times in the final minute. Akamune split a pair of free throws with 14 seconds remaining to give WKU a 73-69 lead, and Steven Wronkoski came down and buried a triple with nine seconds left to bring the Ragin' Cajuns within one at 73-72.
Harrison-Docks was fouled on the next inbounds play and calmly hit his ninth and 10th free throws of the night to secure the 75-72 WKU victory.
WKU finished the game shooting 41.8 percent (23-for-55), and WKU went 24-for-33 from the free throw line (.727) for its best outing percentage-wise in the last five games. Louisiana-Lafayette became just the fifth team this season to outrebound WKU in a game when it held a 47-35 advantage on the glass.
WKU committed just eight turnovers in the game and held the Ragin' Cajuns to 36.2 percent shooting (25-for-69).