BOWLING GREEN, Ky. — WKU cut a 15-point second half deficit to one possession on two occasions down the stretch, but the Hilltoppers could not complete the charge and saw their 12-game home winning streak come to an end with a 65-62 defeat to Florida Atlantic Saturday night at E.A. Diddle Arena. The loss drops WKU to 10-8 on the season and 4-3 in conference play, and Florida Atlantic moves to 9-9 and 4-3 in the league with the win.
WKU's 12-game home winning streak was the 13th-longest active streak in the nation and WKU's longest since winning 15-straight from 2008-09. WKU was led by 20 points by T.J. Price and 19 by George Fant, and Fant added eight rebounds in 30 minutes. O'Karo Akamune contributed eight points, two blocks and two steals in 22 minutes off the bench. Florida Atlantic's Greg Gantt, the conference's leading scorer, led all players with 22 points.
WKU was outrebounded in the game, 44-28, and shot 33.3 percent from the field in the contest (18-for-54). Florida Atlantic converted at a 49.0 percent clip from the floor (24-for-49). The Hilltoppers forced 24 Owl turnovers, which led to 18 points. WKU never led in the game.
The Owls led 32-22 at the half, thanks in part to cold Hilltopper shooting. WKU made just seven of 25 shots in the opening 20 minutes and missed all eight of its three-point tries.
A Gantt jumper with 14:01 to play in the game gave Florida Atlantic a 44-29 lead, its largest of the game, and another Gantt jumper made the score 46-34 a couple of minutes later after five quick WKU tallies.
From there, WKU scored eight-straight points, five from the free throw line and three on a Price triple, making the score 46-42 with 10:25 to go and forcing Florida Atlantic to call a timeout.
The Owls opened up another 13-point advantage after the break, but WKU stormed back with 10-in-a-row over 1:05 to bring the game to a one possession contest at 62-59 with 1:26 to play.
The two teams traded turnovers, and Florida Atlantic hit a free throw with 19 ticks remaining to stop the WKU run and give the Owls a 63-59 lead.
WKU flew down the court and Price buried a three-pointer, bringing the game within one point with 13 seconds left at 63-62. After a WKU foul to stop the clock Florida Atlantic made two free throws, making the score 65-62, and Florida Atlantic escaped with the win after a Price triple at the buzzer went long.
WKU returns to E.A. Diddle Arena Thursday night at 7:00 to face Louisiana-Lafayette. The game will be televised by the Hilltopper Sports Satellite Network, airing nationally on ESPN and ESPN Full Court, regionally on WKYU-PBS and in Louisville on WBNA. It is also available on the radio on the Hilltopper IMG Sports Network with Randy Lee and Hal Schmitt on the call.
Thursday is Throwback Night at E.A. Diddle Arena as a part of WKU's celebration of 50 seasons of basketball at the arena. WKU will be throwing back to the 1970s for the game, and all reserved bleacher tickets will cost $1.00 with the first 1,000 fans receiving a free t-shirt modeled after WKU's 1971 Final Four team uniforms. In addition, the Hilltoppers will be wearing throwback uniforms, which will be raffled at halftime of the January 19 game for fans to keep. Raffle tickets can be purchased for $20.00 at the WKU Ticket Office or Hilltopper Athletic Foundation office, and proceeds benefit the WKU student-athlete scholarship fund.
Concessions will cost $1.00 as well, including hot dogs, small popcorn and small fountain or can soda. In-game music will also be thrown back to the 1970s as part of the celebration.