WKU holds off Charlotte to stay perfect in conference play

WKU guard Darius Thompson (15) attacks the basket for a layup during WKU’s game vs. Nicholls State on Nov 19 in E.A. Diddle Arena. WKU won 100-86.

Jeremy Chisenhall

WKU closed its road trip with a 73-63 win over Charlotte on Saturday, giving the Hilltoppers a 5-0 record in Conference USA play.

The Hilltoppers were led by statsheet stuffer Darius Thompson once again, who had 13 points, eight rebounds and six assists. Junior guard Lamonte Bearden had a team-high 19 points, and senior forward Dwight Coleby recorded his seventh double-double of the year, scoring 10 points and grabbing 12 rebounds.

“We had to grind that one out. We didn’t have one of our best nights, but we had to grind it out,” freshman guard Taveion Hollingsworth said, according to a WKU press release. “When you go on the road, it’s always going to be a challenge, no matter what. … We stay with it, no matter how we’re playing. If everybody’s off, we just keep playing hard on defense. That’s all coach talks about, is defense.”

Both teams got off to a slow start, as both WKU and Charlotte shot under 30 percent in the first half, and at halftime the Hilltoppers led 28-20.

Despite the offensive struggles, WKU had the lead at the break thanks in part to a 13-2 run that was sparked by Bearden scoring the team’s first seven points of the game.

Thompson followed in the path of Bearden by scoring WKU’s first five points of the second half. Charlotte was within four with under 10 minutes remaining, but a 14-4 WKU run down the stretch put the 49ers away.

The Hilltoppers shot 52 percent from the field in the second half, a significant improvement from the first half which helped them get the edge and stay perfect in C-USA play.

WKU is back at home on Thursday to play Alabama-Birmingham in Diddle Arena at 8 p.m. UAB is 13-5 this year, and 4-1 in conference.

“I anticipate Diddle Arena being packed,” head coach Rick Stansbury said in regard to this week’s home games. “I anticipate there not being a seat in there for us Thursday night. That’s how it should be. Everybody wanted a team with a chance to compete, and I think they see we have a team to do that. Our crowd can be the difference Thursday night.”

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