Tops earn best start in 19 years with sweep of Middle Tennessee

Marshall Thundering Herd at WKU Hilltoppers, on January 15, 2021 at E.A. Diddle Arena in...
Marshall Thundering Herd at WKU Hilltoppers, on January 15, 2021 at E.A. Diddle Arena in Bowling Green, KY(Steve Roberts/WKU Athletics | Steve Roberts/WKU Athletics)
Published: Jan. 24, 2021 at 11:41 PM CST
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MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (WBKO) - Western Kentucky Men’s Basketball took down rival Middle Tennessee 68-52 to earn its best start in 19 years.

The Hilltoppers (13-4 overall, 6-2 C-USA) held the Blue Raiders to just 28.6 percent from the field to sweep the series in back-to-back games.

The 13-4 start is the best through 17 games for WKU since the 2001-2002 season.

“That wasn’t the prettiest win, but it was a win,” WKU associate head coach Phil Cunningham said. “These back-to-backs are a mental test and physical test. We walked out of here 19 hours ago for an early tip today, and we really challenged the guys, ‘Let’s be the most energetic team. Let’s break their will.’ … If you look at it, we kind of broke their will down the stretch to kind of finish them off.”

Junior center Charles Bassey led the team with 23 points, 14 rebounds, and five blocks. Five other players finished with at least eight points as well for the Tops.

Sophomore guard Jordan Rawls tallied 10 points while redshirt senior guard Kenny Cooper and senior guard Josh Anderson each had nine. Anderson also had a season-high nine rebounds and three assists.

Redshirt senior forward Carson Williams and senior guard Taveion Hollingsworth each finished with eight points.

Bassey scored with 41 seconds to give the Tops a 31-20 halftime lead.

In the second half, Middle Tennessee (3-9, 1-5) made it 55-51 with 4:48 left to play. WKU answered with a 7-0 run.

The Tops hit their final six points from the foul line between Cooper and Hollingsworth.

WKU shot 48 percent from the floor and knocked down 17 of 22 free-throws. They also outscored the Blue Raiders 38-18 in the paint.

“We’ve got a great all-around team,” Rawls said. “Some nights the 3 won’t be falling, but we’ve got plenty of guys that can get inside, draw fouls and finish at the rim.”

Jayce Johnson paced Middle Tennessee with 10 points and seven rebounds.

WKU is slated to host Old Dominion this week in a home series starting at 7 p.m. CT Friday at E.A. Diddle Arena. The game will stream online on CBS Sports Network on Facebook Watch.

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