Key shooting and bench points lift the Tops to 78-66 win over Redbirds

Key shooting and bench points lift the Tops to 78-66 win over Redbirds
Published: Nov. 22, 2022 at 9:20 PM CST
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GEORGETOWN, Grand Cayman (WBKO) - WKU Hilltopper Basketball bounced back in the Cayman Islands Classic with a 78-66 win over the Illinois State Redbirds. WKU shot 51% from the field including a 58.8% mark from the 3-point line. The Hilltoppers netted 10 balls beyond the arc and assisted on 16 of their 26 baskets. Additionally, WKU outscored the Illinois State bench 32-14.

“Naturally, you’re always happy to win,” said head coach Rick Stansbury. “But it’s not just winning that makes you happy; the thing I’m most proud of is that we got back up off that mat after yesterday. It was a hard, tough game where we had some adversity and we didn’t really perform very well to it. We had a challenge this morning playing this 11 o’clock game, against a team that outscored LSU by 11 in the second half yesterday. A team that causes you problems where the five guys are going to stretch the floor and make 3′s... I’m proud of the W, but most importantly, I’m proud of the way we got it.”

WKU jumped out to an 11-2 lead early on in the game, but Illinois State put a stop to the run with back-to-back-to-back 3-pointers from three different Redbirds.

Including those three straight 3′s, Illinois State used a 16-2 run to take its own 18-13 lead with just over 12 minutes remaining in the half.

The Hilltoppers battled back with a 12-3 run over the course of four-plus minutes to take a lead of 29-26 with 6:06 left.

The two teams exchanged baskets before Fallou Diagne made a major impact sequence at the end of the game. He hit a 3-pointer with 55 seconds left and then pulled in an offensive rebound with seconds left. He was fouled and knocked down two key free throws to put the Tops up 38-35 headed into halftime.

Coming out of the break, the programs traded off baskets before WKU was able to hold Illinois State scoreless for nearly six minutes. In that time, the Hilltoppers scored 13 straight points, including three 3-pointers from three different Hilltoppers.

Following the run, the Redbirds would come within nine points but never more as the Hilltoppers kept them at bay.

“The number one thing I thought our guys did was doing a great job of being prepared to play this morning,” said Stansbury. “They came in with the right attitude, we came in with great energy. That again, shows me, one of the most important things you can have in your team. Guys getting back up and being made up of the right stuff to fight. The bench was great for us today, Fallou (Diagne) and (Jordan) Rawls didn’t’ just great minutes, they gave us great scoring minutes.”

“Last night at dinner, our mentality was just next play,” said Luke Frampton. “Forget the past, we can’t do anything about the last game. We’ve got a new one coming up and that’s the most important one. We were just focused on getting ready and getting our rest and coming out and playing hard.”

Diagne, Frampton, and Emmanuel Akot all scored 14 points for the Hilltoppers, scoring nine 3-pointers between them.

Diagne was 5-5 from the field before missing his final shot of the game. He added four rebounds including three key offensive boards. Akot went a perfect 3 for 3 beyond the arc while adding four rebounds, one assist, one steal, and two blocks.

Jordan Rawls was also a major contributor off the bench with 12 points and three assists, shooting 60% from the field.

Illinois State’s Seneca Knight had 18 points and eight rebounds.

WKU will now play Tulane at 12:30 p.m. CT on Wednesday.