Hilltoppers drop final game in Ashville to South Carolina

Published: Nov. 14, 2021 at 9:57 PM CST
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BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) - WKU Hilltopper Basketball struggled on the glass Sunday against South Carolina, falling 75-64 in its final game in the Asheville Championship.

South Carolina (2-1) outrebounded the Hilltoppers 46-28, sank nine 3-pointers and made 14 of 18 free throws to halt a second-half comeback effort by WKU.

“It’s hard when you’re playing a team like South Carolina because they’re going to get up in to you and really guard you and you try to get to the foul line,” WKU head coach Rick Stansbury said. “… Give our guys credit, coming out of the locker room being down seven. We fought back and tied the game up. We had about a two-minute stretch where we turned it over twice and gave up an offensive putback. It goes from two points to eight points in about a minute and a half or so. From there it was an uphill battle. There’s lots of things we can get better at, lots of things we can learn from. We didn’t win either game, but I can take some positive things from this to build on moving forward.”

The Gamecocks took control in the first half with a 13-2 run that made it 24-13 with 5:56 to go.

WKU cut it to 31-24 at the break on a late 3-pointer by graduate senior guard Camron Justice – playing in his first game back with the Hilltoppers since 2019-20 after getting eligible this week. It was also just 24 hours after Justice got married on Saturday evening.

The Hilltoppers (1-2) came roaring back out of halftime with a quick seven points from redshirt senior guard Luke Frampton, and two free throws by sophomore guard Dayvion McKnight tied the game at 35-all with 17:11 to go.

But South Carolina answered with a 3 from James Reese, and the Gamecocks eventually rattled off a 14-4 run to push the lead back to double digits.

A 3-pointer by fifth-year senior guard Josh Anderson cut WKU’s deficit to seven with 3:28 remaining, but South Carolina knocked down another 3 to end the threat.

Anderson led the Hilltoppers with 16 points.

Senior forward Jairus Hamilton finished with 13 points and six rebounds, and McKnight added 11 points, six rebounds, five assists and four steals. Redshirt senior forward Jaylen Butz chipped in 10 points, six rebounds and three steals.

Jermaine Couisnard and Devin Carter each had 16 points to pace South Carolina.

The road does not get easier for the Hilltoppers, who next travel to No. 12 Memphis at 7 p.m. CT Friday. The game will air on ESPN+.

“Like coach said, I think it’s just a learning experience for us, we’re only three or four games in,” Anderson said. “We’ve got a new team so I feel like if we just take away those first half starts that we’ve had and get back in practice and work on those.”

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