Hilltoppers complete sweep of FIU

Published: Mar. 1, 2021 at 3:51 PM CST
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BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) -Western Kentucky Men’s Basketball completed its series sweep over Florida International with a 71-59 victory Monday afternoon.

The win gives the Hilltoppers (17-5, 10-2 C-USA) their eighth-straight conference victory.

After dominating the Panthers 91-58 the day before, FIU proved to be a challenge for WKU the second time around.

“Give their coach credit. He did a great job getting his team ready to play today,” said WKU head coach Rick Stansbury. “They could’ve very easily just caved it in, come out, take the loss and go home, but they didn’t.”

Despite outshooting the Panthers 48% to 38%, the Tops still found themselves trailing 33-28 at halftime. The difference-maker in the first half was 3-pointers and turnovers.

FIU knocked down six shots from the 3-point line, compared to WKU’s two. After having just 11 turnovers all game on Sunday, the Hilltoppers turned it over 10 times in the first half alone. Meanwhile, the Panthers had just four turnovers.

FIU closed out the first half on a 22-8 run.

“At halftime, in the locker room, we just talked about coming out with energy and winning those first four minutes and that’s what we did,” said sophomore guard Jordan Rawls.

Senior guard Taveion Hollingsworth would put WKU up 44-43 at the 16:37 mark in the second half. The Tops would never trail again.

Hollingsworth finished with 20 points, seven rebounds, and two assists for the Hilltoppers.

“Those kinds of guys make you a better coach,” Stansbury said on Hollingsworth’s performance. “We need him doing that. That’s who he is.”

Rawls, who started his second straight game for the injured Josh Anderson (ankle) knocked down four 3-pointers for WKU, finishing with 14 points.

WKU would go up 62-45 after a 21-2 to take control of the game.

Junior center Charles Bassey led the Tops with 22 points, 14 rebounds, and five blocks to record his 14th double-double this season.

“Any game we play I’m supposed to dominate,” Bassey said. “That’s what I’m supposed to do to help my team. So I did it yesterday and did it again today.”

WKU will close out the regular season with a home series against Old Dominion (14-6, 10-4 C-USA) on Friday and Saturday. The Monarchs are in second place in the Conference USA East Division. WKU and Old Dominion were originally scheduled to play on Jan. 29-30 but had to postpone the series due to COVID-19 issues in the Monarchs program.

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