Hilltoppers fall to UAB in final game before bonus play

WKU sophomore guard Taveion Hollingsworth (11) reacts to a foul being called on him during an exhibition match vs Kentucky Wesleyan in Diddle Arena on Nov. 3. Hollingsworth scored 24 points in the win.

Alec Jessie

WKU dropped its fifth conference game on Saturday with a 68-60 defeat coming at the hands of the Alabama-Birmingham Blazers.

WKU falls to 16-11 on the season and 9-5 in conference play. The Blazers improve to 16-11 and 8-6 in conference play.

Director of basketball operations Talvis Franklin said the team settled for too many jump shots in the loss.

“You’re not going to make shots every night,” Franklin said. “But when you don’t make shots, you gotta get that thing to the basketball off that dribble and throw it inside.”

Freshman center Charles Bassey lead the way for the Hilltoppers with another double-double, scoring 23 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. Sophomore guard Josh Anderson was the only other Hilltopper in double figures with 15 points.

Guard Zack Bryant dominated on offense for the Blazers, scoring 24 points for the Blazers on 8 of 15 shooting from the floor. Guard Tavin Lovan recorded his first double-double of the season with 13 points and 12 rebounds. Forward Lewis Sullivan added 10 points and seven rebounds as well.

WKU shot the ball miserably, going only 37 percent from the floor and 6 of 27 from three point range. The Hilltoppers also got outrebounded for the second game in a row, losing 41-32.

Bassey said that there is work to be done for the Hilltoppers to improve their rebounding.

“We just have to get back in practice and work on that stuff,” Bassey said. “We didn’t do good today with that and we need to do better rebounding the next game.”

Anderson credited the poor shooting performance to a lack of offensive fire.

“Our energy on offense was bad,” Anderson said. “We were standing around too much and taking too many jump shots. That messed up our whole flow of the game.”

Sullivan scored the opening bucket for UAB to get the first points on the board for the game.

The Blazers held the Hilltoppers scoreless the first four minutes of the game. Josh Anderson final broke the scoring slump with a layup. At the first media timeout, UAB led 4-2.

WKU took a timeout with the poor start carrying on. The Hilltoppers were just one of their first eight shots and trailed by six early on.

Jalen Perry knocked in the first 3-pointer of the game, extended the Blazer lead to seven.

Bassey got going with a couple of paint baskets. The Hilltoppers still trailed 11-6 at the second media timeout of the half.

Bassey was on a roll, scoring six straight points for the Hilltoppers and drawing to within three of the Blazers.

UAB hit a wall offensively in the middle of the half, with six early turnovers and over a three minute scoring drought.

Lovan was able to break the slump for the Blazers with a free throw and a layup to extend the UAB lead to six.

Jeremiah Bell and Sullivan gave UAB its largest lead of the game at that point with a couple of scores. The Blazers led 18-8 with 6:38 left in the first half.

WKU would look to respond to the UAB surge.

Anderson made the first big time play for the Hilltoppers with a slam dunk. Jared Savage then responded with a layup of his own to draw the Hilltoppers closer.

WKU began to pick it up on the offensive end with a bucket and foul from Bassey. The Hilltoppers were able to draw within a point with less than four minutes left in the half.

The Hilltoppers got their first lead of the game at 21-20 after a Bassey layup.

The Blazers immediately responded with a 3-pointer from Bryant to take back the lead. Lovan kept up the 3-point barrage with his first make of the game from behind the arc.

The Blazers went into halftime with a 28-23 lead over the Hilltoppers.

WKU struggled mightily in the first half. The Hilltoppers shot an abysmal 32 percent from the floor and were 0-12 from beyond the arc. Bassey carried WKU with 15 first half points and four rebounds.

UAB fared much better offensively in the first half, shooting 46 percent from the floor. 10 UAB turnovers kept WKU close, as the Hilltoppers turned them into eight points.

Bryant scored nine points and grabbed four boards. Lovan added six points and six rebounds off the bench.

Anderson got the offense going in the second half with a bucket and foul.

After a Bearden jumper cut the lead to three, Bryant quieted the crowd with his second 3-pointer of the game to extend the lead six.

Savage made the first 3-pointer of the game for the Hilltoppers to extend the streak of games with a made 3-pointer to 1,003 straight games.

WKU was converting on offense as UAB struggled to muster up points. Tolu Smith cut the lead to one while UAB was on a three minute scoring drought.

UAB scored four answered points and took a 38-32 lead into the second media timeout of the half.

Lovan hit his second 3-pointer of the game and extended the UAB lead to nine. Bassey responded by scoring his first bucket of the half.

After Smith cut the UAB lead to five with a pair of free throws, Makhtar Gueye got the Blazers going with a slam dunk and a foul.

Both teams traded bucket as UAB maintained a seven point lead with under eight minutes left in the game.

Lovan continued his impressive play, converting an and-1 and getting the UAB lead back to 10. Bryant’s layup gave UAB its largest lead of the game, up 52-40 with six minutes left in the game.

The Blazers began to pull away from WKU, torching the Hilltoppers defense from all levels.

After a Sullivan tip-in extended the lead to 14, Bearden knocked in the second 3-pointer of the game for WKU, cutting the deficit to 11 with under four minutes remaining.

Bryant closed out the victory with a mid-range jumper and free throws. The lead was up 15 for the Blazers.

Anderson and Hollingsworth knocked in a couple 3-pointers for the Hilltoppers, but it was not enough for WKU. The Hilltoppers could not overcome the large deficit and the Blazers left Diddle Arena with the win.

WKU’s remaining schedule will be announced tonight.

Reporter Alec Jessie can be reached at 270-745-6291 and alec.jessie226@topper.wku.edu. Follow Alec on Twitter at @Alec_Jessie.