Hilltoppers upset West Virginia, move to championship round of Myrtle Beach Invitational

WKU freshman guard Charles Bassey (23) jumps for a layup during an exhibition match vs Kentucky Wesleyan in E.A. Diddle Arean on Saturday, Nov. 3.

Alec Jessie

Charles Bassey’s doube-double dominance was the key to WKU’s 63-57 upset win over West Virginia in Myrtle Beach Invitational. 

WKU forced 22 turnovers in the win. Bassey, a freshman center, notched his second double-double with 13 points and 15 rebounds. Sophomore guard Taveion Hollingsworth added 13 points and 4 steals.

“What I’m most proud of – we probably went against the hardest-playing team in the country, and I thought our guys rose to the occasion,” head coach Rick Stansbury said in a press release. 

Esa Ahmad scored 12 points for the Mountaineers. James Bolden scored 10 of his own. Star senior Sagaba Konate was limited to five points and six rebounds.

One of the key matchups in the game was Konate against Bassey. Bassey rose to the occasion and was the dominant big. 

“I’m ready to play against anybody,” Bassey said in a release. “It was a good game. My teammates played together and stayed together and took care of business, so we came together as a team.”

Esa Ahmad got off to a hot start for the Mountaineers scoring, five of WVU’s first eight points.

Redshirt junior wing Jared Savage converted a four-point play for the Hilltoppers to draw WKU within a point. A pair of Bassey free throws and a Josh Anderson putback earned WKU its first lead at 12-11. The WKU defense tightened up, not allowing a West Virginia field goal for over four minutes.

“We knew they were going to play hard defense,” Anderson said in a release. “We knew if our offense wasn’t going, we’d have to get back and play defense. I thought we did a good job with that.”

A Brandon Knapper 3-pointer and Ahmad layup got the Mountaineers the lead back at the second media timeout of the first half. WVU’s hot shooting combined with a WKU scoring drought opened up a five-point lead for the Mountaineers.

After a four-minute period of turnovers and missed field goals, Bassey ended the scoring drought with a couple field goals. Savage hit another and the Hilltoppers came within a point of the Mountaineers.

Freshman big man Tolu Smith scored four straight points to answer a WVU run. The Mountaineers led 35-33 at the half. After going back and forth, WKU got its first lead of the second half with a Hollingsworth jumper.

WVU opened the half with four turnovers in the first two minutes. WKU opened up its biggest lead of the game after a Josh Anderson dunk to go up 44-39. 

Bolden took the lead back back for the Mountaineers with a layup. At that point the turnovers began to mount for the Hilltoppers, as Hollingsworth and Bassey both committed turnovers for WKU.

A late 7-0 run from the Hilltoppers gave them a six-point lead. Bassey and Hollingsworth hit free throws down the stretch to extend the lead.

A graduate transfer Desean Murray dunk put the Hilltoppers up 59-57. Anderson forced a turnover and WKU hit the free throws necessary to complete the upset.

WKU will play Central Florida in the Myrtle Beach Invitational championship game on Sunday.

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