Hilltoppers lose halftime lead to UCF to finish runner-up in Myrtle Beach Invitational

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A strong night from freshman center Charles Bassey was not enough, as Western Kentucky falls 78-62 to Central Florida in the Myrtle Beach Invitational championship Sunday.

The Hilltoppers (3-2) led by as much as 11 in the first half and 32-28 at halftime, thanks in part to Bassey's strong scoring the first 11 points of the game, but UCF (4-1) seized control with a 17-4 run to open the second half.

“We’re only disappointed because at halftime, we’re in a position to have a chance,” WKU head coach Rick Stansbury said. “For 100 minutes, we were pretty good in this tournament. The last 20 minutes, we didn’t play very good. There’s a lot of positives we’re going to take from it. Nobody probably expected us to be in the championship game, so we’ll learn again from what happened tonight and get better from it.”

WKU was trying to win its first in-season tournament championship since beating No. 4 Kentucky and George Washington in 2001 to claim the NABC Classic title.

Bassey recorded his third double-double with 25 points and 10 rebounds and was named to the all-tournament team. He had 18 points and seven rebounds in the first half, including WKU’s first 11 points of the game.

“We have to come out in the second half strong,” Bassey said. “We have to get better at that. It’s a learning experience.”

Sophomore guard Taveion Hollingsworth added 14 points, while redshirt junior guard/forward Jared Savage finished with 12.

“We had a lot of good things come out of this tournament, and we had a lot of bad things,” Hollingsworth said. “We’ve got to take that into practice next week and get back on it.”

UCF shot 50.9 percent from the field and outscored WKU 22-9 on points off turnovers.

Aubrey Dawkins paced the Knights with 21 points and was named tournament MVP.

The Hilltoppers have almost a week off before they travel to Indiana State at 1 p.m. CT Saturday in Terre Haute, Ind. The game will be broadcast on ESPN+.