The WKU men’s basketball team won the back end of its Texas road trip, defeating North Texas 62-59. It was the Hilltoppers’ second straight game without head coach Rick Stansbury on the sidelines.
“We’re doing good right now,” freshman center Charles Bassey said after the game. “We’re going back and just believing in ourselves. That’s it. Just believing in ourselves and just doing what we can to win every time.”
Bassey led the charge for WKU scoring a team high 18 points, grabbing seven rebounds, and blocking four shots. Sophomore guard Taveion Hollingsworth pitched in 14 points as well and Senior point guard Lamonte Bearden scored eight points and dished out six assists.
“That helps the guards mostly,” Hollingsworth said of Bassey’s performance. “Because now everyone’s trying to dig so it was good for him to get it going and keep going in the second half.”
Guard Ryan Woolridge had 18 points and six rebounds for the Mean Green. Guard Umoja Gibson added 18 points as well and five 3-pointers. Michael Miller also scored in double figures with 14 points.
The game went back and forth early on, with WKU holding a slight advantage. Bassey had six early points and WKU led 10-6 with 13 minutes left in the half.
WKU went on a massive run the rest of the half. Bassey and freshman guard Dalano Banton led the 12-3 surge that put WKU up 22-9 with under seven minute left in the half.
North Texas could manage only six more points as the Hilltoppers went to the locker room with a 15 point halftime lead after Hollingsworth banked in a half court heave.
Hollingsworth and Bassey led the Hilltoppers in scoring with 10 a piece in the half. Bassey added four rebounds and three blocks. Freshman center Tolu Smith contributed four points and seven rebounds off the bench.
North Texas had a miserable first half performance. The Mean Green shot just 20 percent from the floor as a team and went 1-15 behind the arc. North Texas turned the ball over eight times to just four assists.
Michael Miller scored a team-high seven points and hit the team’s only 3-pointer of the half. Star guard Ryan Woolridge was limited to just two first half points.
Junior wing Jared Savage gave WKU its largest lead of the game with a 3-pointer at the beginning of the second half, However, the North Texas offense would finally wake up as the Mean Green made their move.
Down 40-25 with 13:58 left, North Texas began its run with a Miller jumper. In a seven minute span, North Texas went on a 14-6 run to cut the WKU lead to seven with a little over seven minutes remaining.
“We expected a run to be made,” Hollingsworth said. “So you know, we just got to keep our composure, like I said. Finish the game.”
Gibson got hot in the second half, hitting all five of his 3-pointers in the final period after making none in the first half.
North Texas attempted to climb back in the game with layups from Miller and Woolridge, but buckets and free throws from Bassey and Bearden were enough to hold off the Mean Green in the end.
WKU improved to 15-10 overall and 8-4 in conference play with the win and has won seven of its last eight games. WKU will come back home to face Middle Tennessee State on Thursday night. Tipoff is scheduled for 7:00 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.