Bassey leads Hilltoppers to 66-63 road win at Southern Miss

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HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WKU ATHLETICS) -- Charles Bassey pulled down 17 rebounds for the second straight game, and WKU Hilltopper Basketball held on late for a 66-63 victory at Southern Miss on Thursday.

The freshman center Bassey finished with 14 points and 17 rebounds, as he and redshirt junior guard/forward Jared Savage (14 points) led five Hilltoppers in double figures scoring.

WKU (11-9, 4-3 Conference USA) won its third straight game after dropping three straight league games by five total points.

“We’re just playing together right now, moving the ball, playing defense,” Bassey said. “The last three games, we’ve played better defense. We’re making sure we get the win. That’s what we want to do, keep winning.”

Bassey reached his ninth double-double of the season – and third straight overall – in the first half with 10 points and 11 boards before the break.

WKU went on an 8-0 run down 12-8 to pull in front 16-12 on a basket by sophomore guard Taveion Hollingsworth. The Hilltoppers then closed the half with a 16-4 burst to lead 34-21 at halftime.

Southern Miss caught fire early in the second half, including five 3-pointers from LaDavius Draine. A bucket by Leonard Harper-Baker trimmed WKU’s cushion to 47-44 with 12:48 left.

The Hilltoppers responded with a 3-pointer from freshman guard Dalano Banton and a bucket by Hollingsworth as they continuously kept the Golden Eagles (11-9, 3-5) at bay.

Southern Miss got back within four with three-plus minutes left, but sophomore guard Josh Anderson halted the run with a thunderous dunk down the lane.

After taking a shot to the face in the first half, Anderson scored 11 points with four rebounds and three assists with a bandaged nose in the second frame.

Hollingsworth finished with 12 points, and redshirt senior guard Lamonte Bearden added 10 points and four assists.

“We knew it was going to be a hard-fought, tough game,” WKU head coach Rick Stansbury said. “Southern Miss is good, all the experience they’ve got. … The challenge for us tonight was they’re going to play small – could we win that war playing big with Charles? Starting off the game, we weren’t very good in man (defense), but we had a plan to come here and zone them a bunch. … We got in up 13 at halftime, but you know Southern Miss is going to make a run at you. They made a run at us, but our guys spurted back out to go up seven. Those are winning plays.”

Harper-Baker paced Southern Miss with 18 points and 15 rebounds.

The Hilltoppers finish the road swing at Louisiana Tech at 4 p.m. CT Saturday in Ruston, La. The game will air on Stadium on Facebook.

“Coach always says that every road win is that much bigger,” Savage said. “It was a good win, but it’s on to Saturday now. We’ve got to go get that one.”