Hilltoppers continue road struggles in loss to Missouri State

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

The WKU men’s basketball team dropped to 4-4 on the 2018-19 campaign with an 84-78 loss to Missouri State on Wednesday night.

After rebounding against Tennessee State at Diddle Arena on Dec. 1, the Hilltoppers continued their struggles away from home, as they dropped to 2-4 away from home and 0-3 in true road games.

“It hurts,” freshman Dalano Banton said in a press release. “Losing on the road should hurt. We’ve got to come out and play harder on defense and play as a team. That’s what [coach] preaches most—grit and toughness on the road.”

For the Hilltoppers, the usual suspects led the way. Sophomore guard Taveion Hollingsworth scored 24 points in defeat and added four assists in his second game as starting point guard. Freshman center Charles Bassey rebounded from Saturday’s poor performance with a double-double, scoring 17 and grabbing 10 rebounds. Once again, sophomore forward Josh Anderson scored all of his points in the second half, finishing with 12 total.

Missouri State had four players score in double figures. Tulio Da Silva led the Bears with 18 points and six rebounds in the victory. Ryan Kreklow added 15 points and seven rebounds.

The Hilltoppers started the game well. Banton put the Hilltoppers up 19-10 with a little over nine minutes left in the half after converting an and-one. The next 29 minutes were a different story as the Bears outscored the Hilltoppers 74-59 the rest of the way.

It started with a 12-2 MSU run, led by Szymon Wojcik, who scored five points off the bench. The two teams kept up the close affair the rest of the half. WKU led 29-28 at halftime. The WKU defense was strong in the first half, only giving up three 3-pointers and holding the Bears to 37 percent shooting.

The second half was a different story. The Bears outscored the Hilltoppers 19-9 in the first five minutes of the second half. WKU lost its lead and never got it back. The Hilltoppers found themselves down 15 with six-and-a-half minutes left in the game.

“We couldn’t get any stops,” head coach Rick Stansbury said in a press release. “That’s where it starts at. … I know they scored 13 of their first 15 possessions out of the locker room. That just can’t happen. It didn’t matter what we were in. I didn’t think we had any control defensively in that game until late when we went small.”

WKU fought to get back in the game, with Anderson and Hollingsworth leading the comeback. After an Anderson bucket, WKU trailed by only three with a minute-and-a-half left.

But the Bears held off the Hilltoppers in the end. Jarred Dixon hit a long 3-pointer as the shot clock expired the next possession. It proved to be the dagger.

The WKU defense collapsed in the second half. Missouri State scored 56 points on 75 percent shooting. To make matters worse, the Hilltoppers were out-rebounded 32-25 in the game, an area in which they have usually dominated in this season.

The Hilltoppers will look to rebound this Saturday at 2:30 in Fayetteville, Arkansas against the Razorbacks. 

Reporter Alec Jessie can be reached at 270-745-6291 and [email protected]. Follow Alec on Twitter at @Alec_Jessie.