Hilltoppers throttle Charlotte, set up showdown with Old Dominion

WKU forward Dwight Coleby embraces guard Taveion Hollingsworth in the dying seconds of the Hilltoppers’ victory on Saturday, January 27. WKU beat Marshall 74-85 at E.A. Diddle Arena.

Sam Porter

The WKU men’s basketball team blew out an over-matched UNC Charlotte team 93-55 on Thursday night in Diddle Arena. The 38 point win is the largest win for the Hilltoppers since Head Coach Rick Stansbury took over.

Eight different Hilltoppers scored, six of them in double figures. WKU shot an impressive 56 percent from the field in the blowout victory. With the win, WKU also clinched a first-round bye in the Conference USA tournament.

“Our challenge tonight was not to overlook Charlotte,” Stansbury said “I was able to rest some guys, we only had one guy that played over 30 minutes. We got great productivity from our bench too. We came out and did what we were supposed to do and now we can focus on this next one.”

Charlotte kept the game close for the first 15 minutes before the Hilltoppers began to pull away. With WKU holding on to a 29-27 lead with 4:59 to play in the first half, graduate transfer guard Darius Thompson found senior forward Justin Johnson for a 3-pointer to stretch the lead to 5 points and ignite a 14-0 run to end the first half.

With just 16 seconds left in the firt half, freshman guard Taveion Hollingsworth fell to the floor after being fouled by Charlotte’s Ausitn Ajukwa. Ajukwa was issued technical foul afterwards, and Hollingsworth hit 3-of-4 free throws to cap the run and give WKU a 43-27 halftime lead.

Johnson would open the second half with two jumpers and Thompson would capitalize on a layup and a foul to stretch the run to 21-2 and the lead to 21 points. But the Hilltoppers were just getting started. Anderson would score seven of his career-high 19 points in a three-minute span to push the lead to 23 points. 

Charlotte tried multiple defensive schemes to try to matchup with Anderson, but none seemed to work as his 19 points were a career high.

“I’ve been seeing a lot of bigger guys on me this year,” Anderson said. “They’re usually slow footed so I’m able to just go around them.”

Freshman guard Jake Ohmer put the nail in the coffin with just over five minutes to play. The Taylor Mill product scored all eight of his points in less than a two minute span, capping it off with a 3-pointer with 4:18 to play to push the lead to 35 points. The Hilltoppers would cruise the rest of the way en route to a 93-55 victory

The win improves WKU to 21-7 (13-2 C-USA). The Hilltoppers host Old Dominion University (22-5, 13-2 C-USA) on Saturday at 6 p.m. in Diddle Arena in the final home game of the season. The winner will take sole possession of second place in the C-USA standings.The Hilltoppers defeated the Monarchs 75-68 earlier this season.

Johnson, Thompson and graduate transfer forward Dwight Coleby will all be honored before the game for senior night.

“Saturday is our last home game, it’s senior night,” Stansbury said. “We have three really good players and great people leaving this place. Show up, find somewhere to stick yourself. We’re going to need everyone in there Saturday night to help us win the game. The crowd can be the difference. We need you in there not to watch us play, but to feed off your energy. It’s the crowd’s last game, give us your best one.”

Reporter Sam Porter can be reached at 270-745-6291 and [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @SammyP14.