Bassey leads Hilltoppers over Gardner-Webb in career best performance

Junior center Charles Bassey (23) dunks on freshman Anthony Selden in Diddle Arena on Dec. 10, 2020.

Kaden Gaylord

The Hilltoppers (4-2) defeated Gardner-Webb (0-1) 86-84, in a close affair, for the Runnin’ Bulldogs’ first game of the 2020 season. 

Junior center Charles Bassey helped lead the Hilltoppers to victory with a career-best 29 points and 14 rebounds. Redshirt junior Luke Frampton was 5-5 from beyond the arc and finished with 15 points on the night. 

“The key stat was that we had 20 assists and four turnovers,” head coach Rick Stansbury said postgame. “Charles was the difference all night long for us. That’s one of those games where you’ll look back on it late in the year and say it was a good win without us being at our best.” 

WKU had a slow start, only scoring four points in the first 5:16 of the half. Bassey recorded those four points while the rest of the team went 0-8 and 0-5 from three. 

GWU used the early scoring drought to their advantage going on their own 7-0 to have the early 8-4 lead. 

Both teams struggled from the field in the first half but Gardner-Webb had the biggest advantage at the three-point line, shooting 8-12 from the three-point line, while WKU struggled shooting 3-11. 

“They beat us off of penetration a bunch,” Stansbury said of his team defending from deep. “A better way to guard sometimes is to play some zone as crazy as that sounds. You want to guard all of that movement, and they can beat you on that movement, so we’ll get better at that.” 

Like most games this season, the Hilltoppers were able to keep the game close due to its effort at the free-throw line hitting 7-10 compared to the Runnin’ Bulldogs’ 3-6.

GWU was able to contain the frontcourt for WKU holding Bassey to five rebounds and senior Carson Williams to zero points on 0-6 shooting and three rebounds, while the Hilltoppers were outrebounded as a team 21-19. 

On the bright side Frampton went 3-3 from behind the arc, hitting all three of the team’s three-point makes in the half as GWU took a 43-40 lead into the break. 

Sophomore guard Lance Terry led the way for the Runnin’ Bulldogs with nine points at halftime

The Hilltoppers came out of the locker room firing back to make it 50 all at the first media timeout. Senior Josh Anderson knotted up the game after picking the pocket of freshman Jordan Sears as he scored eight points on 3-3 shots in the first five minutes. 

Bassey then took over and had his own dunk fest, scoring eight points as well, giving WKU a three-point 58-55 lead at 13:22. 

“Coming back, bringing the energy in the second half, that was important to the team,” Bassey said. “Someone like Josh stepping up for us today was great. We need guys from the bench every game…everybody was good today.” 

WKU took control, going up by ten after an Anderson dunk, taking a 65-55 lead at the second media timeout of the half. 

After Bassey checked out of the game, Gardner-Webb didn’t shy away as they went on an 8-0 run for 1:56 to pull the game within two 65-63. 

Redshirt senior Kenny Cooper scored his first basket of the contest with 3:23 left in regulation, which extended the Hilltoppers lead to 79-76. Cooper also led WKU with seven assists on the floor. 

Bassey extended his career-best game with a bucket at 2:44 left in regulation. The veteran was dominant on the board too with 14 rebounds before the end of the game. 

Down to the wire, GWU brought the deficit down to one, before Bassey hit one of two free throws. Cornwall shot a three but missed to give WKU their fourth win of the season 86-84. 

Bassey finished with 29 points and 14 rebounds, Anderson finished with 16 points and four rebounds, and Frampton finished with 15 points on 5-5 shooting. Gardner-Webb finished 12-19 from the three-point line. 

“I was just taking the shots I was given…happy it came out how it did,” Frampton said. “I’ve been shooting the ball pretty poorly the past couple games and I’m definitely happy with the performance tonight, especially getting the win and that’s all that really matters to me.”

On the back end of the four-game homestand, the Hilltoppers will host Rhode Island (3-3) who  are coming off a 73-62 loss against #13 Wisconsin.  

“They will be the most talented team coming into Diddle Arena this season as of right now,” Stansbury said of Rhode Island. “You look at Rhode Island you’ll see they’re going to be big, they got four or five guys on that back line. You will see a huge talented team in here on Sunday afternoon.” 

Game time is for Sunday at 11 a.m. in Diddle Arena.

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