Tops beat Rhode Island 68-65 to earn thirst straight win

WKU picked up its third straight win after defeating Rhode Island 68-63.
WKU picked up its third straight win after defeating Rhode Island 68-63.(Hunter Smith)
Published: Dec. 14, 2020 at 12:30 AM CST
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BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) -Western Kentucky Men’s Basketball outlasted the Rhode Island Rams to pick up at 68-63 win at E.A. Diddle Arena.

The Hilltopper led for most of the game, but Rhode Island was never far behind.

In the final four minutes of the game, the Rams pulled within one multiple times. The Tops had an answer every time en route to their third straight win.

“We knew it was going to be a difficult game for a lot of reasons,” WKU head coach Rick Stansbury said. “First off, Rhode Island, they’re just a really good basketball team. Number two, it’s 11 a.m. It’s not like it’s 11 a.m., Diddle Arena full of people and emotion, so I knew that was going to be a challenge. I thought the key to the game would be who could come out and impose their will on the other team. Who could come out and have the most energy. I thought our guys did that.”

Like WKU, the Rams make a living at the free-throw line, but they netted just 11 of 15 on Sunday to the Hilltoppers’ 21 of 26.

“Coach always preaches to get to the free-throw line so we just wanted to be super aggressive to just get to the free-throw line as much as possible,” Sophomore guard Jordan Rawls said.

Rawls finished with 11 points off the bench.

Senior guard Josh Anderson led WKU with 15 points, including 2-for-2 from three-point range.

Senior guard Taveion Hollingsworth tallied 14 points, seven rebounds, four steals, and three assists, and junior center Charles Bassey was a menace inside again with 13 points, nine rebounds, five blocks, and two assists.

The Tops would lead 33-27 halftime after an 11-3 run in the final four minutes before the break.

WKU held a one-point lead until Anderson knocked down a three-pointer to give the Hilltoppers a 58-55 advantage.

Rhode Island tied the game with 51 seconds remaining but a tip-in putback by Bassey would put the Tops up for good.

Hollingsworth made two free throws with four seconds left to make it 68-65, and Rhode Island’s Fatts Russell missed the front end of a 1-and-1 after WKU opted to foul.

“It’s been big, just how we can close out games,” Anderson said. “Just the depth that we have, when the game has three minutes, two minutes left, whether the game is close or not, we’ve got players who can come in and make plays. Whether it’s the starting five or not, so I feel like that’s big for our team.”

The Hilltoppers next scheduled game is at home against Tennessee Tech at 6 p.m. CT on Dec. 22. However, the program is looking to fill its last non-conference vacancy before then.

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