Hilltoppers Drop 86-82 Overtime Thriller at Rhode Island

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KINGSTON, R.I. (WBKO) --- WKU Hilltopper Basketball showed plenty of fight Saturday at Rhode Island, rallying to force overtime before falling 86-82 in a road thriller.

WKU redshirt junior forward Carson Williams' fourth 3-pointer sent the game to overtime, but Rhode Island was able to capitalize on offensive rebounds and costly Hilltopper turnovers to get the victory.

"You're always disappointed when you don't win," WKU head coach Rick Stansbury said. "You want the loss to hurt, but I couldn't be more proud of the effort, the will they played with and the way we battled back on the road against a really good basketball team."

Williams scored a game-high 26 points on 9-of-13 shooting, including a 4-for-4 performance from 3-point range. He also tied his career-high with 14 rebounds and blocked three shots.

His final 3-pointer to send the game to overtime capped a late surge in regulation by WKU (7-4), which trailed 70-61 with 4:46 to play.

It was an encouraging sign for the post player in the Hilltoppers' first regular-season game without injured center Charles Bassey.

"I have to do that, particularly from a rebounding standpoint," Williams said. "I don't remember how many rebounds Charles got a game, but it was quite a bit. There's some vacant rebounds that need to be grabbed, so I'm going to have to step up my game in that aspect every night out."

Williams tied the game at 20-all in the first half with a 3-pointer at the 8:44 mark, before Rhode Island went on an 8-0 run to take its largest lead of the frame with 6:46 left.

WKU scored the final five points of the half to cut its deficit to 36-35, as Williams sank another 3 just before the buzzer.

Rhode Island (7-3) came out and scored the first eight points out of the locker room, and the Rams were in control for much of the second half as they kept the Hilltoppers at bay.

But after a 3-pointer by Tyrese Martin gave Rhode Island a 70-61 lead with less than five minutes left, the Hilltoppers began to chip away, including six points from junior guard Taveion Hollingsworth.

WKU's final possession included three 3-point tries by the Tops, the last the game-tyer from Williams in the corner just before the horn.

The Hilltoppers had their opportunities in overtime but never led in the extra period.

"I think we showed a lot of fight," freshman guard Jordan Rawls said. "We got down double-digits twice in the second half. This team isn't going to go away. We fought hard, but we didn't come out with the W."

Rhode Island improved to 6-0 at home this season and has won eight straight at home overall.

Martin had 22 points to pace the Rams, who pulled down 21 offensive rebounds and forced WKU into 18 turnovers.

Behind Williams, Hollingsworth had 19 points and six rebounds for the Hilltoppers. Rawls added 12 points, and junior guard Josh Anderson had 10 points. Redshirt senior guard/forward Jared Savage finished with nine points and 11 boards.

The Hilltoppers head into a holiday break and will conclude nonconference play at home against Belmont at 6:30 p.m. CT Saturday, Dec. 28 at E.A. Diddle Arena. The game will air on Stadium.

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