Down to the Wire: Hollingsworth’s technical was WKU’s turning point

Taveion Hollingsworth, WKU guard, goes up for a shot against Marshall University. WKU won with a final score of 85 to 74.

Jeremy Chisenhall

With 4:39 remaining in WKU’s game against Marshall Saturday, the Hilltoppers found themselves in a tough position. Freshman guard Taveion Hollingsworth had just been called for a personal foul, and in an attempt to get the referee’s attention, he was called for a technical.

It was his fourth foul, and Marshall seemed to have WKU on the ropes at that point. Marshall’s Jon Elmore went to the line for four free throws and made them all. After having led by 10 points earlier in the half, WKU was down 74-70 and the Thundering Herd were on a 6-0 run.

Despite Marshall taking the lead on that sequence, it was WKU who gained the momentum. Hollingsworth’s demeanor and play changed after the technical call.

In the first 35:21 of the game, Hollingsworth scored just four points on 1-of-6 shooting. He was 0-for-2 from 3-point range. In the final 4:39, Hollingsworth scored five points on just two shots, one of them being a 3-pointer to give WKU a lead it would not surrender. He helped lead his team on a 15-0 run that gave them an 11-point win.

“That was a huge play, and he also jumped up and got that tip-in up,” WKU head coach Rick Stansbury said of Hollingsworth’s 3-pointer down the stretch.  “If I knew we’d go (on a) 15-0 run every time, I’d let him go get a technical,” Stansbury said.

Hollingsworth also played a major part on the defensive end during the run. He drew offensive fouls on back-to-back possessions, which in turn forced Marshall’s Ajdin Penava and Darius George to both foul out.

“There was two offensive fouls in a row on [Marshall],” Stansbury said. “The game didn’t have a lot of flow to it because of all the fouls.”

Both Stansbury and Marshall head coach Dan D’antoni expressed displeasure with the officiating and the number of fouls.

Hollingsworth’s teammates also took notice of how he moved on from the technical, and stepped up into the big moments afterwards.

“Taveion got a technical foul and he could have easily been down,” senior guard Darius Thompson said. “He made two or three defensive stops, made a huge bucket for us.”

The Hilltoppers completely suffocated Marshall on defense during that run. They forced the Thundering Herd to miss all eight of their last eight shots. Marshall also only made one of its last 12, eight of which were 3-point attempts. The Thundering Herd wound up shooting 10-of-32 from deep for the game.

“Defense,” junior guard Lamonte Bearden said when asked what was key on that 15-0 run. “I think we got a stop, and then I think I got an and-one or something like that. Just stops. Stops, … That’s what we were thinking, stops. Defense wins games.”

Bearden was perhaps the only player more locked in than Hollingsworth over that 15-0 run. He had seven of WKU’s last 15 points, all of them coming in the final 3:14 of the game. That included a three-point play to start the run and two made free throws to help seal the deal. Bearden also had a blocked shot, one of two blocked shots that WKU had on that run. The other came from senior forward Dwight Coleby.

WKU has faced deficits in all three of their last three games with less than five minutes to go. In those games, they have outscored opponents a combined 40-19 in those final five minutes to go 2-1, with their only loss coming to Middle Tennessee despite outscoring the Blue Raiders 12-11 in the last five.

WKU will take on Texas El-Paso next. UTEP is 7-14 this year and suffered a 31-point loss to MTSU Saturday. It’s not likely that WKU will need a 15-0 run over the last four minutes Thursday.

Sports Editor Jeremy Chisenhall can be reached at 859-760-0198 and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @JSChisenhall