BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) --- WKU Hilltopper Basketball made a living at the free-throw line Saturday night, netting 36 of 45 shots from the charity stripe in an 88-74 victory over Tennessee State at E.A. Diddle Arena.
On the night the Hilltoppers (4-3) honored their All-Century Team, they also registered the 600th all-time win in Diddle Arena in front of 6,071 fans.
“They’re a better 3-point shooting team than we are, so we have to win the free-throw war, and we won that,” WKU head coach Rick Stansbury said. “We make 36, they attempt 25. Huge difference to offset the self-inflicted turnovers.”
Redshirt junior guard/forward Jared Savage led WKU with 20 points – including 13 of 13 free throws – while sophomore guard Taveion Hollingsworth added 19 points and three assists in his first starting effort at point guard.
Graduate senior forward Desean Murray had 17 points and eight rebounds, and sophomore guard Josh Anderson turned in a season-high 15 points and three steals.
Freshman center Charles Bassey finished with five points, seven rebounds, three steals and two blocks.
“After every game you can always find something you need to get better at, but I thought we went out there with better energy than we did our last game,” Murray said. “That was all great, because we brought energy. We had some crazy turnovers, but it was good seeing some energy and some chemistry forming in all that.”
WKU led 38-33 at halftime, and Tennessee State (2-5) scored the first basket of the second half to make it a one-possession game.
The Hilltoppers responded with a 16-4 run as Murray’s putback made it 54-39 with 15:11 to play.
It was still a five-point game at 75-70 with 5:19 remaining, but WKU scored 13 of the final 18 points of the game. Anderson’s thunderous and-1 dunk with 59 seconds left sent the crowd into hysterics for good measure.
“We love the energy in Diddle, so anytime we make a big play, we try to get them into the game,” Anderson said. “We did a good job on that, too. That was big.”
The Hilltoppers shot 50 percent from the field and outscored Tennessee State 21-9 in points off of turnovers.
Kamar McKnight led the Tigers with 30 points.
WKU heads back on the road for a two-game swing next week, starting at Missouri State at 7 p.m. CT Wednesday in Springfield, Mo.