BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) --- WKU Hilltopper Basketball valued the ball for the second straight outing and made a living at the free-throw line Saturday night, pushing past UTEP 76-59 at E.A. Diddle Arena.
The Hilltoppers (13-10, 6-4 Conference USA) committed just nine turnovers and netted 19 of 29 shots from the charity stripe. They’ve now won five of their last six games after a 1-3 start in league play.
“If you can find ways to win, it gives yourself a chance,” WKU head coach Rick Stansbury said. “Number one, if you won the turnover ratio. For the second time in a row, we have less than 12. … If you can win the free throw war, win the rebound war, when you win those three categories, it gives you a little more leeway to maybe not shoot it great. Even though in the second half we shoot 52 percent, we just didn’t shoot it great from the field.
“… We came out in the second half and kind of put a foot on them a little bit, got the lead, found a way to separate it and win the game.”
Sophomore guard Josh Anderson led all scorers with 18 points, including 14 in an explosive first half. Freshman center Charles Bassey registered his fifth double-double in his last six games with 17 points and 12 rebounds.
Redshirt junior guard/forward Jared Savage scored 14 points, and redshirt senior guard Lamonte Bearden tallied nine points, seven assists and four rebounds.
Sophomore guard Taveion Hollingsworth chipped in six points and nine rebounds.
“I feel like we’re in a good rhythm right now, just taking our time on offense,” Anderson said. “I feel like nobody is forcing anything. I feel like the chemistry has gotten way better, so I feel like that played a big part.”
WKU trailed 20-18 early before going on a 14-2 run, with Anderson scoring 12 of the points in that burst. His three-point play made it 32-22 with 3:25 remaining in the frame.
UTEP (7-14, 2-8) trailed just 34-31 at halftime and was within two at 43-41 with 14:45 left.
The Hilltoppers went on a 9-0 run to extend their lead, then later used another 7-0 spurt to make it 61-50 WKU on a three-point play by freshman guard Dalano Banton at the 7:39 mark.
“We played really good,” Bassey said. “We faced everything we’ve struggled with, struggled a little bit on defense. But when we came back in the second half, we came together and just played a really good second half and got a win.”
WKU outrebounded the Miners 41-32 and shot 51.6 percent from the field in the second half.
UTEP shot just 36.1 percent overall. Nigel Hawkins paced the Miners with 17 points.
The Hilltoppers make a trip to the Lone Star State next week for two games, starting at Rice at 8 p.m. CT Thursday in Houston, Texas. The game will air on CBS Sports Network.