Sans Stansbury, WKU takes down Rice on the road

Taveion Hollingsworth celebrates during the Hilltoppers’ 72-66 victory over Florida Atlantic on Saturday at Diddle Arena.

Alec Jessie

The WKU men’s basketball team won a thriller over the Rice Owls on Thursday night, 92-85, a game that took the Hilltoppers not one, but two overtimes to finish off the Owls.

The Hilltoppers were forced to make a comeback late in the second half, and were without head coach Rick Stansbury, who was unable to coach due to a back issue. WKU was instead led by assistant coach Mark Hsu.

“I think it just takes grit,” senior guard Lamonte Bearden said after the game. “We got to go out and play together. Like you said, we were down 13 in the second half but we never gave up on each other.”

Sophomore wing Josh Anderson led WKU scorers with 24 points and five rebounds. Junior wing Jared Savage scored 21 points and knocked in five 3-pointers on the night. Freshman center Charles Bassey and Bearden registered double-doubles for the Hilltoppers. Bassey scored 10 points, grabbed 14 rebounds, and blocked five shots. Bearden scored 16 and dished out 11 assists.

For Rice, Junior guard Ako Adams scored 23 points and hit his first five 3-pointers. Freshman forward Quentin Millora-Brown scored 13 points and grabbed 11 rebounds.

WKU got off to a hot start, scoring the first nine points of the game. Thanks to multiple buckets from Bearden, the Hilltoppers maintained a 19-10 early.

Rice would fight back with a 11-2 run that put the Owls within one.

Junior forward Robert Martin hit a 3-pointer to tied the game at 28 all. The teams went back and forth the rest of the half.

Hollingsworth knocked in a jumper to give the Hilltoppers a two point halftime lead at 44-42.

Anderson led the Hilltoppers with 10 points and two rebounds. Savage and Bearden had nine points each. Bearden also added seven assists.

Adams was on fire for Rice with 15 points and five 3-pointers. Junior forward Robert Martin scored seven points off the bench.

Both teams were shooting well in the first half. WKU shot 64 percent and 60 percent from three. Rice wasn’t too far behind going 55 percent and 53 percent from three.

WKU came out of the locker room playing poorly, only hitting three of its first 13 shots and with 7:39 left in the game, the Owls held a 70-57 advantage over the Hilltoppers.

The Hilltoppers would storm back on a 14-0 run to take the lead with 1:02 left in the game thanks to a Savage 3-pointer.

“It was do or die time,” Savage said after the game. “If we didn’t make a run then, we weren’t gonna to make one and we were gonna lose.”

Chris Mullins would go one of two at the line to tie the game at 71. Anderson missed a half court heave, and the game was headed to overtime.

Sophomore guard Taveion Hollingsworth hit a pair of free throws late in overtime to give the Hilltoppers a three point lead. But Adams hit another 3-pointer to send the game into a second overtime.

Bearden opened the second overtime up with a 3-pointer and the Hilltoppers never looked back, cruising to a 92-85 win.

The Hilltoppers moved to 14-10 on the season and 7-4 in conference play with the win and will square off at North Texas on Saturday at 5:00 p.m.

Men’s basketball reporter Alec Jessie can be reached at 270-745-6291 and [email protected]. Follow Alec on Twitter at @Alec_Jessie.