Injury riddled Hilltoppers fall to Charlotte

WKU falls to Charlotte in Diddle Arena 75-71
Published: Jan. 21, 2023 at 10:37 PM CST
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BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) - An injury riddled WKU Hilltopper team fell to Charlotte 75-71 in Diddle Arena on Saturday night.

WKU was without the nation’s leading shot blocker Jamarion Sharp on Saturday night. Additionally, sixth year senior starting guard Luke Frampton suffered a knee injury less than three minutes into the game and was unable to return. Out two starters, the injuries proved too much to overcome as the Hilltoppers fell to Charlotte in a heartbreaking 75-71 loss in E.A. Diddle Arena.

Head coach Rick Stansbury missed his ninth game of the season due to a health issue.

“A heart wrenching loss,” interim head coach Phil Cunningham said. “These guys, I hate it for them, because they’re playing so hard, they’re so connected, they’re so together. We were fighting some adversity right off the bat tonight, it’s very obvious… Just a heart wrenching loss. We kept fighting, fighting, fighting and we just couldn’t get over the hill. Just couldn’t get over it. Give them credit, (Aly) Khalifa was tremendous in the first half, without [Jamarion Sharp] in there. (Brice) Williams, does what he’s been doing. When they win, Williams is big, he had 31 against Middle Tennessee, 31 against LA Tech and he has 27 tonight. He was the difference down the stretch.”

Charlotte (13-7, 4-5 C-USA) started strong from the field, particularly the 3-point line, as the 49ers made 9 of their first 15 shots. The hot start pushed the Charlotte lead to as high as seven points.

WKU responded with a 7-0 run, with five points from Jordan Rawls and a pair of free throws from Jairus Hamilton. The run tied the ball game up at 22-all with eight minutes to go in the first half.

The 49ers fought back, regaining the lead and pushing it to 11 before the break. Hamilton was able to make a 3-pointer with under 30 seconds remaining to make the halftime score 38-30 in favor of Charlotte.

While in the second half, WKU (11-9, 3-6) was able to close it to five multiple times in the first 10 minutes, the deficit felt like a mountain to climb against one of the league’s best defensive teams.

In the waning minutes, Rawls scored 9 of WKU’s last 11 points. The Hilltoppers got as close as two as Rawls converted a 3-point play and Dayvion drove to the basket with a layup, but never got over the hump.

WKU logged seven assists against just three turnovers, the fewest amount of turnovers for a Hilltopper team since Feb. 8, 2020, when they committed three against Southern Miss. This is just the second occurrence of three or fewer turnovers since at least the 1971-72 season when full turnover stats became available.

Rawls led the Tops in scoring with a career-best 25 points. He also logged two assists, a steal and drew six fouls, all while shooting 9 of 13 from the field. He netted two long balls and went 5 for 6 at the charity stripe.

Brice Williams and Aly Khalifa combined for 49 of Charlotte’s 75 points. Williams scored 27 and Khalifa had 22, each adding seven boards.

WKU will take the Florida road swing next, starting at FIU on Thursday. The game will stream on ESPN+ and will tipoff at 6 p.m. CT.