Hollingsworth emerges as best point guard option

WKU’s Taveion Hollingsworth (11) shoots from outside against Tennessee State on Saturday. Hollingsworth scored 19 points in the Hilltoppers’ 88-74 win at Diddle Arena.

Alec Jessie

WKU men’s basketball has found its point guard for the time being. Despite struggling to set up teammates, sophomore guard Taveion Hollingsworth did well enough scoring the ball to secure that role for the forseeable future with his performance in WKU’s win over Tennessee State. 

Hollingsworth had just three assists compared to six turnovers when the Hilltoppers took on the Tigers Saturday, but he scored 19 points on 5-of-11 shooting (2-of-4 from 3-point range). 

“Whatever Taveion does, he’s going to do it wide open,” head coach Rick Stansbury said. “Difference was this: first half he had five turnovers, second half he had one. So he got better, but he’s still a guy, with that ball in his hand, you better be able to stop him.”

Prior to Saturday’s win against TSU, sophomore Josh Anderson averaged just five points and 3.2 assists per game as the Hilltoppers’ starting point guard. Anderson had 14 assists and 21 turnovers through the Hilltoppers’ first six games. He was particularly bad in the loss to Indiana State with two points, five turnovers and no assists.

“Maybe I expect too much out of Josh,” Stansbury said after WKU’s win over UT Martin. “That’s where I’m at with him. I expect a whole lot more. It’s not where it needs to be.”

In back-to-back losses, WKU averaged only 62 points a game. That rough stretch led Stansbury to make the change and move Hollingsworth to the point guard position. He also moved Josh Anderson into the frontcourt and kept him in the starting lineup. 

“Josh got better,” Stansbury said after WKU’s win over TSU. “He was a much better player than before he started, but I’m making the move to help him too. He’s gotten uptight and feels the pressure of the position.”

Stansbury was confident in Hollingsworth heading into the matchup with Tennessee State. 

“With the ball in his hands, [Taveion] is a guy that can really attack and score in different ways,” Stansbury said. “You have to guard him in transition, whether it’s a pull-up three or whether it’s off a ball screen, he has the ability to do those kind of things.” 

Hollingsworth struggled with the lead role in the first half. He had 11 points in the first 20 minutes, but he also turned it over five times and did not record an assist. WKU did lead going into the break, but only by five points. 

Stansbury stuck with the Lexington native at point guard for the second half. Hollingsworth dished three assists to only a single turnover. The Hilltoppers also played their best second half of the season, outscoring the Tigers 50 to 41 and shooting 53 percent from the floor. Stansbury was impressed with Hollingsworth’s improvement throughout the game. 

“I’m going to take the improvement in the second half,” Stansbury said. “He was better. Lots better. He had one turnover in the second half. That’s good. I like that.” 

The move also paid dividends for Anderson. Without the responsibilities of playing point guard, he broke out of his scoring slump. 

In a more natural role, Anderson scored 15 second-half points, including an emphatic dunk to seal the victory. Anderson also got to the free-throw line six times due to his attack-first mindset. Anderson played with more freedom back in his previous role. 

“I woud say I felt comfortable,” Anderson said. “Just being back in my natural position, I felt comfortable back on the wing.” 

The Hilltoppers are still struggling to share the ball as well as they did at times last year, as they had six assists and 14 turnovers Saturday. 

There are just two games remaining before redshirt senior guard Lamonte Bearden can be eligible to return for the Hilltoppers. He contributed 11.8 points and 3.4 assists a game last year. He totaled 131 assists compared to 92 turnovers. Until his return, Stansbury said his best option at the point guard spot is Hollingsworth. 

“He’s not going to throw it through keyholes, that’s not who he is,” Stansbury said, “but you’ve got to guard him.”

 

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