BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) --- A late comeback effort fell short for WKU Hilltopper Basketball on Sunday, as the program suffered its first home defeat of the season with an 87-81 loss to Troy at E.A. Diddle Arena.
The Hilltoppers (5-5) trailed by as much as 17 in the second half against the hot-shooting Trojans (5-5), who shot 54.1 percent from the field and made 12 of 25 3-pointers.
“Give Troy all the credit,” WKU head coach Rick Stansbury said. “Coach (Phil) Cunningham did a great job getting his team prepared. They were better coached than us, they played harder than us – they did all of the little things you have to do to win on the road.”
WKU was down just 43-40 at halftime, but Troy opened the second half with a 13-2 run to push it to double digits. That eventually swelled to 76-59 with 6:29 remaining.
“We always talk about the first four minutes of the second half and how we don’t really start it well, and it showed tonight,” redshirt junior guard/forward Jared Savage said. “We didn’t start well. They got a lead, and we never recovered from that. We have to start the second half better.”
The Hilltoppers stormed back in the final three minutes, pulling within 82-79 with 1:05 left on a three-point play by freshman center Charles Bassey. They cut it to three again with under a minute left, but Troy preserved the lead at the free-throw line.
Savage led WKU with 23 points and seven rebounds, while Bassey finished with 18 points and nine rebounds. Redshirt senior guard Lamonte Bearden had 12 points, five assists and three steals in his season debut.
Sophomore guards Josh Anderson and Taveion Hollingsworth each had 10 points. Hollingsworth had his first career double-double with a career-high 12 rebounds.
WKU made just 2 of 16 shots to start the game and ultimately shot 40 percent, but netted 25 of 31 free throws.
Alex Hicks had 20 points to lead Troy, which recorded 20 assists.
“We have to sit down (and guard),” Hollingsworth said. “There were a lot of easy baskets in the first half and second half, and it cost us.”
The Hilltoppers play their final non-conference road game at Belmont at 6:30 p.m. CT Wednesday in Nashville, Tenn. The game will be broadcast on ESPN3.