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WKU’s late rally against LA Tech comes up short

Published: Jan. 9, 2021 at 10:59 PM CST
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BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) -Despite a valent effort, WKU Men’s Basketball couldn’t complete its comeback against Louisiana Tech, falling to the Bulldogs 63-58 at E.A. Diddles Arena Saturday night.

The Hilltoppers (9-4 overall, 2-2 Conference USA) trailed by as many as 21 points in the first half. WKU would pull within one in the final two minutes but couldn’t close it out.

“Give Louisiana Tech some credit, they definitely showed up the second night,” WKU head coach Rick Stansbury said. “That first eight or 10 minutes, they had a better mental preparation. I wasn’t able to get our guys to prep that. I know it’s a 40-minute game, but we dug ourselves such a hole in that first 10 or 12 minutes. I’m not sure what it was, I just know we got down by 21. From that point on, I felt like there was a different urgency with us. You just have to expend so much energy on a second night when you’re down that far to get back in it.

“Again, like I said, I don’t buy into all this stuff, same game, same opponent, I just don’t buy into it. They keep score, they throw the ball up, you’ve got to get yourself mentally ready to play. Trust me, we as coaches talk about a lot of things to try and change things, this is new to players and coaches. But still, throw the ball up and you’ve got to be ready to play and we didn’t have that edge for the first 10 or 12 minutes.”

A 20-0 run by the Bulldogs led to the Tops trailing 25-6 with 9:29 left in the first half.

WKU would pull within 11 with 2:51 remaining thanks to a 9-0 run, but Louisiana Tech answered with 6 straight points. Senior guard Taveion Hollingsworth hit a 3-pointer with 12 seconds left to cut the deficit to 38-24 at halftime.

“That was just on us,” senior guard Josh Anderson said. “We just weren’t prepared mentally like we’re supposed to be coming out into the game. I feel like we just took it for granted and came out with low energy. We definitely can’t do that against a team like LA Tech, we can’t go down 25-6, we can’t do that opening up the game.”

Hollingsworth led the Tops with 16 points, six rebounds, and three steals.

The Tops scored the first seven points of the second half and were back within six at 40-34 by the 17:35 mark on a 3-pointer by junior center Charles Bassey.

But every time WKU climbed within two possessions and continued to get stops, the offense came up empty.

Bassey finished with 14 points, 13 rebounds, and three blocks for his eighth double-double of the year.

A steal and layup by freshman guard Dayvion McKnight finally brought the Hilltoppers back within one at 59-58 with 1:35 to go, but they never scored again. A tip-in by Louisiana Tech’s JaColby Pemberton made it a three-point game again, and the Bulldogs’ Kalob Ledoux made two free throws to ice it.

McKnight tallied five points, seven rebounds, and six assists in his second start.

Despite making eight 3-pointers and 12 of 13 from the foul line, the Tops shot just 35.2% from the field and were outscored 40-22 in the paint.

Amorie Archibald led Louisiana Tech (9-4, 2-2) with 14 points.

The Hilltoppers continue their homestand against Marshall at 4 p.m. CT Friday at E.A. Diddle Arena. That game was moved from its original Thursday date because of COVID-19 issues in the Thundering Herd program. It will air on CBS Sports Network.

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