WKU takes down FIU in commanding victory, Hilltoppers bench steps up

Redshirt senior Carson Williams (22) slams the ball home over FIU Panther defender Dante Wilcox (12) as the Hilltoppers went on to win 91-58. Williams would go on to finish the contest with 21 points during the game on Feb. 28, 2021.

Kaden Gaylord

WKU (16-5), (9-2, C-USA) returned home against FIU (9-16), (2-14, C-USA) following a loss at Houston last Thursday. The Hilltoppers took down the Panthers 91-58 to open the second to last series of the regular season. 

The Hilltoppers went without the services of junior transfer Luke Frampton for the second straight game for undisclosed reasons. Senior forward Josh Anderson also missed his first game of the season on Sunday due to an ankle injury suffered at Houston.

Stansbury said Anderson was a game-time decision and he had to adjust for the game. He added that Frampton would still be out of Monday’s matchup against the Panthers. 

Senior forward Carson Williams led WKU with 21 points and four rebounds on 6-of-7 shooting. Charles Bassey followed with 19 points and 14 rebounds. Sophomore Jordan Rawls had 11 points and five assists.

Additionally, Bassey hit 1,000 career points over FIU on Sunday with his 19 points scored. 

{{tncms-inline account=”WKU Hilltopper Basketball” html=”<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">If you're going to hit a milestone, do it with flair.With exactly the 19 points needed today, <a href="https://twitter.com/CB_ONES23?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@CB_ONES23</a> has become the 52nd member of WKU's 1,000-point club!<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/GoTops?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#GoTops</a> <a href="https://t.co/wBWf8XC3YS">pic.twitter.com/wBWf8XC3YS</a></p>— WKU Hilltopper Basketball (@WKUBasketball) <a href="https://twitter.com/WKUBasketball/status/1366162350110167040?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">February 28, 2021</a></blockquote>” id=”https://twitter.com/WKUBasketball/status/1366162350110167040″ type=”twitter”}}

“When you play a team that scrambles and presses some you kind of got to make some basketball plays at the end of it,” head coach Rick Stansbury said. “I thought we were pretty efficient scoring early or being as efficient as we can.” 

WKU had a rough start shooting the ball, sinking four of its first 11 shots. But FIU started even worse, hitting two of its first seven shots, with WKU having a 9-5 lead at the first TV timeout. Getting to the rim wasn’t the problem, converting shots inside the paint was. 

“[Stansbury] said to keep attacking regardless and the shots would start falling and eventually they did,” Williams said.

Junior transfer Kevin Osawe checked into the game and the onslaught occurred. The defense began to suffocate the Panthers’ offense while the ball started going in the hoop on the other side of the court. 

Osawe scored five points and had two rebounds in two minutes before catching an elbow to the face, temporarily making him exit the game. Stansbury Osawe chipped a tooth but stayed on the floor. 

FIU shot 16 threes in the first half, only making four, putting WKU at 44-26 lead at halftime. 

“We didn’t allow dribble penetration, getting to that rim much, kicking out to a better three-point shot,” Stansbury said. “I thought Charles’ presence kept them from dribbling in there a lot. I thought we were pretty good.”

WKU dominated the second half right from the beginning, starting out on a 16-2 run. The Panthers were outsized and outmatched in every aspect of the game. 

WKU found itself up 31 with 13 minutes left in the game and was on cruise control for the rest of the half. The starters officially checked out the game with 4:50 remaining in regulation while being up 34 points. 

FIU did not record its first free throw until there was 2:01 left in the game. WKU shot 14-22 on the free throw line Sunday afternoon. 

The Panthers ended up shooting 10-of-31 from behind the arc to end the game. WKU outrebounded FIU 51-30, finished with 20 offensive rebounds, and was -7 in turnovers. 

WKU will be back in action at noon on Monday in Diddle Arena to close out the series against FIU. 

Men’s basketball beat reporter Kaden Gaylord can be reached at [email protected] Follow Kaden on Twitter at @_KLG3.