Hilltoppers sweep their Texas series with win over UTSA

WKU Hilltopper Basketball dug deep again Saturday, forcing overtime on the road at UTSA before pulling out a 77-73 victory.

With their fourth straight win, the Hilltoppers (18-8 overall, 11-3 Conference USA) will be the No. 2 seed going into Conference USA’s upcoming Bonus Play.

“These guys, they never quit,” WKU head coach Rick Stansbury said. “They never quit believing. They stay together, and somewhere through a 40-minute game, we have found ways to make different plays from different people that gives us a chance to be in it or win it late.”

Redshirt senior guard/forward Jared Savage gave WKU a season-high 24 points and a career-high 16 rebounds, and junior guard Taveion Hollingsworth added 23 points to power the Hilltopper attack.

They needed every bit of it against UTSA’s dynamic backcourt duo of Jhivvan Jackson (27 points) and Keaton Wallace (25), who scored the bulk of the Roadrunners’ points.

In overtime, it was WKU that made shots, sinking 8 of 10 free throws and a key 3-pointer from Savage. UTSA (12-15, 6-8) went just 2-for-9 from the field in the extra period.

“Anybody who shoots it 25-plus times is going to score a lot of points,” Savage said. “You’ve just got to contain them and make them take tough shots, and if they hit tough shots, you live with it. That’s what we did.”

WKU led by as much as 12 in the first half and 41-34 at the break. The Hilltoppers made 11 of 15 free throws in the first half, while UTSA didn’t attempt any.

The Roadrunners battled back and reclaimed the lead at 48-47 with a 6-0 run to the 13:21 mark.

The teams volleyed the lead in the final minutes, but a basket in the lane by Hollingsworth tied it at 64-all with 42 seconds left. Hollingsworth had a baseline jumper at the buzzer to win in regulation but missed it.

Savage opened overtime with a 3-pointer, and UTSA never got back in front. With four seconds left and WKU up two, UTSA attempted to miss a final free throw on purpose but didn’t draw iron. Savage hit a pair of free throws after that to ice the win.

The Hilltoppers made 25 of 32 free throws, while UTSA got just 10 attempts.

“It started with defense,” Hollingsworth said. “We just had to get stops and rebound. The main thing we were trying to focus on was them not getting offensive rebounds, because that sets up their main scorers. We were trying to cut that off so we could get easy transition baskets.”

Freshman guard Jordan Rawls and junior guard Josh Anderson also found double figures with 10 points apiece, and redshirt junior forward Carson Williams had eight points and eight rebounds.

The Hilltoppers now await their schedule for Bonus Play, C-USA's scheduling model for the final four games of the regular season. Those games, which will include two home games and two road games, will be announced Sunday afternoon.

WKU does know it will host No. 3 seed Louisiana Tech and No. 4 seed Charlotte, and travel to top-seeded North Texas and No. 5 seed FIU. Dates, times and locations are to be determined.