Bassey, Anderson lead WKU over Marshall to begin the weekend series

Western Kentucky University senior Josh Anderson (4) goes to dunk the ball during Friday nights game in Diddle Arena against the Marshall University Thundering Herd on Jan. 15, 2021. The WKU Hilltoppers beat the Thundering Herd 81-73.

Kaden Gaylord

WKU (10-4), (3-2, C-USA) defeated the Marshall Thundering Herd (7-3), (1-2, C-USA) in a high scoring affair 81-73 with a career high night from junior Charles Bassey and a season-high performance from senior Josh Anderson.

“I thought we were more player driven [tonight] – accepting responsibility and talking and communicating,” head coach Rick Stansbury said. “Us coaches, we can’t play the game, we gotta get a little bit out of everybody, and I do think that was better tonight.” 

Before the game, Anderson was recognized for being the 51st player to reach 1,000 career points in the program’s history. Anderson scored 22 points, a near career-high total. 

Two seasons ago, Anderson scored a career-high 25 points at home against Marshall on Jan. 21, 2019. 

“I know Marshall is one of our rivals,” Anderson said when asked if he plays harder against the Thundering Herd. “Every game we just try to get the win.”

Bassey controlled the floor against Marshall, finishing the game with 21 points and 19 rebounds, a new career high. He also got his ninth double-double of the season which is a tie for most in the NCAA. 

“Every game we go for the rebounds,” Bassey said. “If you watch most of our games, we drive the ball every time. We’re a team that loves to run, and they foul us all the time.” 

Coming into the Marshall series, WKU would focus on the size advantage it had in the paint with big man Charles Bassey. He had more rebounds than the entire Marshall team at the first media timeout with six points and five rebounds to the Herd’s seven points and three rebounds. 

Marshall is a team that likes to shoot a lot of three-pointers. The Herd made it known, shooting 4-of-6 from behind the arc eight minutes into the game, while WKU struggled to put the ball in the net starting 5-of-16 and 1-of-3 from three. 

Redshirt senior Kenny Cooper returned to the floor after not playing for the past few games due to a coaching decision, but ended up hurting his shoulder after two minutes of game time. 

Despite shooting poorly, WKU found itself on a 7-0 run halfway through the opening half with Bassey, Hollingsworth and Anderson off of the floor with junior transfer Kevin Osawe scoring five points on back-to-back possessions. 

WKU went up by 10 points, hitting six straight field goals, but Marshall erased the deficit going on a 7-0 run in a minute and a half to pull the game within three. WKU didn’t fold, amping up the pressure in the backcourt, creating turnovers to push its lead back to double digits. 

Despite 10 first-half turnovers, WKU took a 45-35 lead into the locker room with the Hilltoppers shooting 15-of-17 from the free throw line while being +17 on the boards, out-rebounding The Herd 29-12. 

“Before coming out for the second half we knew we couldn’t come out slow,” Bassey said. “We came back as a team, and we played and we got the win — this was important.” 

The second half started like an all-star game with dunks, layups, and alley-oop galore as the teams combined for 19 points in the first 4:52. The Hilltopper defense collapsed many times, allowing The Herd to get to the rim while WKU stayed aggressive on the offensive end to get its buckets.

{{tncms-inline account=”CBS Sports Network” html=”<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">So nice you'll want to watch it twice. Josh Anderson with a big dunk for <a href="">@WKUBasketball</a>. <a href=""></a></p>— CBS Sports Network (@CBSSportsNet) <a href="">January 15, 2021</a></blockquote>” id=”″ type=”twitter”}}

Marshall didn’t let up, attacking on offense, hitting threes and getting to the rim, scoring 20 points in the first 8:52 of the second half. From there, it turned into a game of runs and droughts. 

With two minutes left in the game, baskets from Bassey and Anderson gave the Hilltoppers a seven-point lead that WKU ultimately would hold on to. The exclamation point came from an alley-oop from Hollingsworth to Bassey, stamping the 81-73 victory. 

WKU finished 19-21 from the free throw line and finished +17 on the boards, outrebounding Marshall 46-29. Marshall lost the game despite winning the turnover battle 13-20 and having more assists 20-11. 

“We got to put this one behind us, and we gotta go up and try to find a way to complete the series,” Stansbury said. 

The Hilltoppers head on the road for game two of the home-and-home series. The second matchup between the C-USA rivals will be in Huntington, West Virginia, inside the Cam Henderson Center on Sunday at 1 p.m. CT tipoff.

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