BOWLING GREEN, Ky. — WKU big men Teeng Akol, George Fant and Aleksejs Rostov combined to score 36 points on 13-for-17 shooting, and T.J. Price added 17 points and four assists as WKU earned the regular-season sweep of Troy with a 65-61 win over the Trojans Thursday night at E.A. Diddle Arena. The win snapped a three-game losing streak for WKU, and the Hilltoppers improved to 12-11 on the season and 6-6 in conference play. Troy fell to 9-13 overall and 4-7 in the league with the loss.
The sweep of Troy was WKU's first since the 2007-08 season, and WKU has now won 14 of its last 16 home games. Jamal Crook returned to action Thursday night for the first time since December 16, as he missed 11 games due to a fractured right foot. WKU went 3-8 in the senior's absence, and he contributed six assists, four rebounds and two steals in 27 minutes Thursday night.
The quartet of Crook, Brandon Harris, Price and Fant started together for the Hilltoppers for first time since December 5 against Southern Illinois.
Rostov finished a perfect 5-for-5 from the floor for 14 points, and Fant added 13 points and a team-high nine rebounds. WKU shot 47.8 percent for the game (22-for-46) and buried nine three-pointers. Troy converted at a 47.3 percent clip (26-for-55).
WKU had 16 assists on 22 made baskets, its most assists in a game since having 17 against IUPUI on December 8, and the Hilltoppers had a positive assist-to-turnover ratio with 16 assists and 14 turnovers for the first time in nine games. Troy was paced by 23 points by Hunter Williams, which came on the strength of five three-pointers.
It was a first half full of scoring runs, as Troy went on a 7-0 spurt over 1:24 to open up a 16-8 lead as the game got underway. From there, WKU scored 11 of 13 points and seven-straight over the next few minutes to take a 19-18 lead as the half entered the midway point.
WKU held a two-possession lead for much of the last five minutes of the half, but Troy closed by scoring seven-in-a-row, including a three-pointer at the buzzer, to come within one at halftime at 32-31.
Twenty-four of WKU's 32 points in the first half came from Rostov, Fant and Akol. The Hilltoppers had nine assists on 12 first-half baskets, giving them more in the first 20 minutes Thursday night than in each of the last three games. WKU finished the half shooting 46.2 percent from the floor (12-for-26), and Troy went 13-for-26 from the field (.500).
WKU went on an 8-2 run over 1:33 in the second half to take a 45-40 lead, and after Troy re-took the lead at 50-48 WKU torched the nets for 11-straight points over approximately three-and-a-half minutes to open a nine-point lead, equaling its largest of the game, at 59-50. Price scored eight points in that stretch and buried a couple of three-pointers.
But the Trojans did not go quietly, as they rattled off seven-straight over 3:39 to come within two points at 63-61 with just a handful of seconds left, but Harris calmly knocked down two free throws to bring the game to its final margin of 65-61.
The lead changed nine times in the game, and there were three ties. WKU scored 19 points off 10 Troy turnovers.
With no game this weekend, WKU is next in action on Thursday, February 7 at North Texas. The 7:00 PM tip-off will be televised on WKYU-PBS in the Bowling Green area.
WKU returns home on Saturday, February 9 for a 7:00 game against Arkansas State. The All-Diddle Arena Team, as voted by the fans, will be recognized at halftime of the game. Also, WKU's 2002-03 NCAA Tournament team will be honored at the game while celebrating its 10th anniversary.
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.